I'll be honest, I don't have the answer as to the right way for executives to address the brutal killing of Tyre Nichols in their organizations, or ANY tragedy for that matter. I don't think anyone does because it's a sensitive issue that affects everyone in some shape or form, yet certainly differently. In situations like these, we must be careful to not focus on tragedies within one community (such as the Black community) and ignore the tragedies in another (such as the Indigenous or LGBTQIA2S+ community) or to not place one tragedy over another simply because one got national coverage. Leaders, it's important that you are consistent in what you address AND how you address it.
However, equity dictates that we do what's needed for who needs it most. With this event, it's the Black and other minority communities and those who are survivors of police brutality. With that said, you are the shepherd of YOUR flock. You know your people and what they need. There's not a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing community tragedies and trauma in the workplace, but I am providing you with some suggestions for your consideration.
- Pray and ask God to guide you as to what to say, how to say it, and when to say it; don't act/speak too quickly
- Be sure to consult with your DEI, HR, and Legal executives, and reps from Employee Resource Groups to understand the needs of your members and what you're able to do
- Be honest and sincere with all communications; don't default to political language; speak from your heart
- Let your members know what services are available within the organization or the community for mental, emotional, and spiritual support to help those affected
- Create a time and space for members to discuss how they feel and/or to pray for those affected; be sure to arrange a facilitator to steward these spaces and to ensure they remain a safe place for honest communication
- State what steps the organization is taking to ensure members feel safe on their jobs and in the community
- Remind your members that everyone must make a commitment to treating each other with respect and compassion and that there's ZERO TOLERANCE for discriminatory behaviors and complacency in witnessing such behaviors
- Announce any efforts the company may be organizing to help people directly affected by the tragedy or giving towards initiatives to ensure tragedies such as this don't happen again
- Extend grace and allow people to feel their feelings; they are spiritual beings who feel both their purpose and partnerships are undervalued and compromised by this tragedy
- Extend grace to yourself too; you're not perfect but you're doing your best to ensure the affected communities feel seen, heard, and loved during this sad and difficult time
I hope this help!
Dr. Wanita Mercer, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of Lead My Heart, an executive coaching and consulting company specializing in helping executives and their teams to live and lead with purpose. She has a Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in organizational leadership, and she is a certified change management specialist and management executive. She has over 15 years of experience as an international educator, motivational speaker, author, and civic leader. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.