We are living through very challenging times. Governor Walz has asked all Minnesotans “to use this new day and sun to connect with your neighbor, to continue to build community.”
As a leader, you are in a unique position to facilitate these important connections and to provide guidance and comfort to your employees. We understand this can be difficult to do when you may also be reeling from current events. As Lt. Governor Flanagan said recently, “Minnesota, we’re hurting, and we need to begin the healing process. We need to bring peace to our streets and calm to our neighborhoods. This is an important step to ensure safety, so we can begin to rebuild and seek justice for George Floyd.”
To help you with the challenging responsibility of managing during this time of crisis, we have compiled a list of tips to help you support and communicate with your staff.
- Lead with empathy and actively listen without judgement. Give indicators that you’re listening and that you care. Thank employees for sharing their thoughts and feelings, whatever they are.
- Avoid stereotypes and assumptions and allow people to offer information on their own. Events such as those that transpired over the past week will affect us and our families differently. Most of the time, we will not know what those experiences are.
- Offer empathy and support by meeting them where they are and avoiding placations. Instead of saying, “I understand,” or “You will be alright” you might say, “I’m so sorry to hear that. I’m here if you need anything.”
- Keep in mind some staff are experiencing trauma. If someone shares this with you, please give them the phone number and website for LifeMatters,* a free, confidential resource with trained professionals who can best assist them.
- Understand that while some people will want to engage in conversation about this, others will not want to talk about it, and that’s okay.
- Encourage your staff to be patient with one another.
- Acknowledge that this level of civil unrest at the state and national level during a global pandemic is unprecedented. It is something that most of us could not have imagined during our lifetimes. It is okay to be scared and uncertain.
- Be supportive and understanding. Many employees spent the past week living with considerable fear and anxiety. This is highly distracting. These employees likely will not be operating at 100%.
- Remind staff that if they are feeling disconnected, it is understandable. You can remind them how important our work is to Minnesotans. Pushing deadlines without this bigger picture may not be productive for employees who are struggling.
- Approve requests for time off if you can.
- Be careful to make the distinction between peaceful protests and riots, as our community leaders have. People participating in both are of diverse backgrounds; avoid blanket statements about race or other protected classes in these discussions.
- Encourage employees to speak to someone they trust and are close to, including loved ones or friends.
We also ask and encourage you to take care of yourselves. Please lean on your supports, don’t hesitate to ask for help, and remember that your well-being is equally as important.
*If you or a member of your staff would like to talk to a counselor on any personal or professional matter, please remember your access to LifeMatters – a free, confidential 24/7/365 health resource. Simply call 1-800-657-3719 or find additional information online at www.mylifematters.com (password is STMN1).
For well-being tips and resources, as well as information on upcoming webinars, please visit SEGIP’s Employee Wellbeing page.