How to Respond to the Current Protests Within Your Workplace

The recent events of police brutality across the U.S., sparked by the death of George Floyd, have led to massive waves of protests against systemic racism. Here are a few pointers for supporting your employees and colleagues at such a difficult time.

On Memorial Day, 2020, George Floyd died at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The video of his death, in which we hear him repeatedly saying, "I can't breathe," as officer Derek Chauvin holds his knee on his neck, has sparked weeks of intense protests across the United States and the world. In light of the unfolding events, including continued acts of police brutality and continued loss of Black lives, you may be feeling particularly overwhelmed. Your colleagues, too, especially your Black colleagues who are directly impacted by racism, may be currently experiencing high levels of stress. While you might feel powerless against the systemic powers at play, you do have power within your workplace. Responding appropriately to offer your support to those who need it is critical at a time like this. Here are a few actionable items for taking care of your employees, your colleagues, and yourself in the midst of these challenging times

Take Time for a Companywide Meeting

For many, our workplace is our most important community. This has been truer than ever as most of us work from home under COVID-19 and have limited contact with our other support networks. With this in mind, it's particularly important to make time for a meeting to talk about the recent instances of police violence, the resulting protests, the emotions it can bring up, and the action steps you will take as a workplace to create change. It is worthwhile to go further than just an internal or external statement. Do your best to schedule an all-company meeting at a time that works for all employees who wish to take part. This is a good time to check in, see how your employees and colleagues are feeling, and to ask what they need for support; in short, make them feel seen and heard. Be sure to make time to discuss actionable items your workplace can take in the days, weeks, months to come.

Here at TechSoup, in addition to our public Black Lives Matter statement, we held an emergency meeting to share some ways we are responding as individuals and as an organization, while being mindful of all employees' different time zones and already busy schedules.

Create an Internal Resource Document

There is already a wealth of articles and documents that aggregate organizations in need of donations as well as readings about racial justice. However, it can be overwhelming to know where to look. If you or someone within your organization has the bandwidth to do so, it's a great idea to put together a short document that lists organizations in need of support at this moment. There are a number of remarkable organizations fighting to protect protestors or make changes to our police system. Consider whether you want your resources to stay local, or if you want to incorporate national organizations. This document can then be circulated within your organization to encourage engagement. Perhaps your colleagues have already been donating, in which case, you can ask them to contribute to the resource document. However, be mindful that not everyone is in a position to donate financially, so look for other actionable resources like petitions or scripts for calling representatives

At TechSoup, we created a document in which many people contributed resources, links, reading recommendations, and more.

Allow for Flexibility

Are your employees participating in protests? Are your colleagues overwhelmed with the news and unable to focus? This is a good time to offer your employees as much flexibility as you can afford to. Some may decide to take a day to join protests in the streets, others may need a day to process, grieve, rest, and regroup. Offering up time to step away from work will allow your employees to return recharged and reengaged.

We are proud to be offering flexibility for those who need it here at TechSoup. Additionally, the NGOsource team took Juneteeth off and dedicated this day to performing community service or educating ourselves about Black history.

Offer Mental Health Resources

Thinking about, reading about, talking about police violence and racial inequality can be taxing in the best of times. These conversations can be especially taxing on our Black colleagues as racial trauma is real. This is a good time to remind your team that their mental health is more important than their productivity. Therapists have recognized for a few years now (paywall) that external stressors can make it hard to regulate one's emotions and focus. Here are a few resources you can share with those looking to start therapy.

  • Open Path Collective — offers affordable counseling online and in person to those with financial need
  • Black and Emotional Mental Health (BEAM) — dedicated to the healing, wellness, and liberation of Black and marginalized communities
  • The Love Land Foundation — committed to showing up for communities of color in unique and powerful ways, with a particular focus on Black women and girls

Make Time for Yourself to Process

It can be hard to stay focused these days when the news changes every minute. You can only show up for others if you are showing up for yourself first. As you consider how to best support your colleagues and how to move towards real change at work, be sure to set aside some time for yourself as well.

It may feel like the moment has passed for a meeting or a discussion about current political events or racial justice within your workplace. If this is your first time breaching this subject at work, do not be daunted, but do take the time to do your homework. This is a case in which starting a little late is much better than never starting at all. If you've already taken these important first steps, remember that the conversation doesn't stop here. How can you integrate these practices in your workplace in the future, and how can you ensure meaningful action moving forward?

As we at TechSoup are embarking on a more active diversity initiative this year, led by NGOsource's own program manager, LaCheka Phillips, we will continue sharing resources about racial justice and related topics. You can look at our blog for an explanation of the racial equity cycle and how it can apply to your workplace. If you're starting up a new diversity initiative, be sure to watch our recent webinar on the topic.

This post was written by NGOsource intern, Cléo Charpantier.