Processing emotionally charged events like the Ahmaud Arbery case can affect a person at moral and spiritual levels that can be hard to manage. What can be done to support them?
Say their names. Say their names and talk about it. This is the call to action that Tiffany Sturdivant, Enspira’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) Manager, laid out in the Executive Summary in response to the trial verdict of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. Last year, three vigilante white men killed a young Black man jogging through an affluent neighborhood. The country has continued to suffer more deaths, including Ryan Leroux, Daniel Prude, Brayla Stone and others. Too many Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) die in a culture dominated by people who do not look like them. Processing these events, these emotionally charged issues, can affect a person at moral and spiritual levels that can be hard to manage.
These injustices did not and will not happen in a void, and employees and employers should not expect to check these human experiences at the front door. How can a company respond when these moments arise? What language should be encouraged and what actions discouraged as a company community struggles to bear the burden of these powerful emotions? How can these initiatives give voice to those marginalized and create spaces of empowerment? These are the questions posed by Sturdivant, along with Leesa Hill, Senior Director of DEIB, and Rebecca Harris, DEIB Director, as they created the “Executive Brief: Ahmaud Arbery Verdict.”
Sturdivant and the DEIB team wanted a chance to create brave spaces for tough conversations and offer a framework to make that happen in the workplace. “Talking about these events can be tough. Providing recommendations, talking points, and documents our clients can use to help start those conversations make it a little easier,” says Sturdivant. “Sometimes, because of the sensitivity of what we’re talking about, individuals may be afraid to even broach these topics.” The brief includes an executive summary, communication examples, leadership approaches, and external resources. Sturdivant hopes humanizing the work environment ensures that everyone can bring their whole selves to work. Rather than avoid the hard conversations, this approach softens the burden of discomfort and provides the opportunity for all voices to drive the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
The executive summary begins with the details of the case. “This process is about offering facts, not opinions. We are here for support,” states Sturdivant as the summary shies away from inflammatory rhetoric and relies on details of the immediate event. The Communications section includes an email template with recommendations for messaging and distribution across all forms of communication to promote understanding through conversations directed by the company. The healthy list of leadership recommendations is the third section of the brief. These range from taking a bold public stance to creating spaces for employees to express themselves, specifically for Black people. “BIPOC, as underrepresented people, get fatigued by having to stand up for themselves all the time. This brief helps with that.” The final section lists references including a meeting framework based on the brief.
Enspira crafted this Executive Summary for clients to use but also for their own internal response to the trial verdict. The company sent out emails and social media posts offering support to those who needed it. “We checked in with our people. We had drop-in office hours where Enspira employees could stop by to ask questions and talk about how they could respond, in hopes of taking some of the burden off their shoulders. We took action. We walked the talk,” said Sturdivant. This was not the first time Enspira created a brief in response to a trial verdict. When the verdict was announced for the George Floyd murder trial, the company created a similar brief to help companies and their employees process the intense emotions.
The trial of Daunte Wright has just begun, and another verdict is around the corner. How can companies apply the Ahmaud Arbery brief in response to the trial verdict of Daunte Wright? How can a company create a culture of empathy and safety in response to social injustices? The solutions to violence and racism may not be solved in the workplace but there are ample actions which can shape a response to support staff and clients. Take a bold stance. Create brave spaces. Check in with colleagues. Act.
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