It’s Not Enough to Stay Silent

by Jun 12, 2020

We’ve been talking a lot about psychological safety as employers navigate COVID-19. We’ve even got a free webinar coming up next week – Beyond the Safety Aspects of Your Return to Work Plan – to help you reopen with your culture in mind.

Now we need to talk about psychological safety as employers help their employees navigate the Black Lives Matter movement catalyzed by the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

The systemic inequality plaguing our nation is being challenged, and underrepresented employees are asking majority groups to wake up. We’re all being challenged to pause, take time to try to understand, and help make real, deep, true change.

Some businesses, like the Nextdoor app, have jumped to release a public statement but failed to back it up with action. I wouldn’t recommend that.

Others are spending time learning and growing so they can be sure they’re making good choices moving forward.

LinkedIn is offering several FREE courses on diversity, inclusion, and belonging. LinkedIn Product Manager, Albert Hwang, gave his team a day from work so they could research and understand what’s happening. He’s spending another day with his team in open discussion about what they learned and next steps.

Fact is, reopening your workplace will not be void of conversations about equity, inclusion, and a better life for minorities.
You may feel helpless to get involved. You may be thinking your leaders won’t want to dive into making change.

Here are three things you can do, right now, as you open up your workplace and make people feel safe from COVID-19 and from inequity.

  1. Get curious. Read, research, listen, and stay humble. Ask your team if they want to get curious with you. Explore, talk, discuss. Slow down and take the time to build a deeper understanding of the world around you.
  2. Make room for emotion. I’ve been saying that your employees are traumatized thanks to COVID-19, and #BLM adds another layer. Make it comfortable for your employees to talk about anything, no matter how emotional it is. Conversations in a safe space are the most powerful gift you could possibly give right now. 
  3. Understand racism versus bias. Many people are afraid to have conversations about race because they fear saying something that makes them sound racist. You can move mountains by taking the pressure off and helping people see they simply have something all of us have – bias. If we can get comfortable talking at least about that, we can make progress. For example, a study at Harvard Business School found that minorities who “whiten” their resumes get twice as many calls for an interview over those who don’t. It’s not racism, it’s unconscious bias. Solving the inequities in your hiring process is certainly a step in the right direction.

Bottom line is that we all must step up our inclusivity and equity game. The list of things we need to do as individuals, organizations, communities, and a society is long. All of us have a whole lot to learn.

Doing nothing is not an option.


P.S. I do hope to see you on our webinar. It’s on June 16th at 10am PST. You can register here at this link.  We will talk about reopening your workplace with psychological safety and inclusivity in mind. 

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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