Photo: Citizens gather in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, to protest the death of Daunte Wright earlier this week.
Many of our colleagues are not okay, and employers need to reach out and find a way to support them. The trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who is charged with murder after kneeling on George Floyd's neck for over eight minutes, is bringing more disturbing details about the killing to light. As the trial wrapped its 10th day in Minneapolis on Monday, another unarmed Black man — 20-year-old Daunte Wright — was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, a suburb about 10 miles away.
As of press time, the only notable brand that has spoken out on the death of Daunte Wright is Ben & Jerry’s — so far, corporate America has been disappointingly silent.
Even as our hearts break and our blood boils, we're all expected to sign into our Zoom calls and punctuate our emails with friendly exclamation points and emoticons as if nothing is wrong. Employers and mangers, it’s about time stop this — and better yet, let's revisit Fortune Senior Editor Ellen McGirt's 2016 piece on why employers need to talk about the killings of Black people.
McGirt wrote the article shortly after the death of Philando Castile. Police officers pulled the 32-year-old Castile over for a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. He was shot to death in the driver's seat in front of his girlfriend — who streamed the horrific sequence on Facebook Live — and her four-year-old daughter.
“Now imagine a young associate watches a video of one of the shootings, shares it on Twitter, expresses fear and outrage, gets attacked by a troll, then walks into a staff meeting,” McGirt wrote back in July 2016.
Those words aptly describe how many are feeling this week: Only now, the probability is high that same employee is compelled to log into a Zoom or Google Hangouts meeting instead of walking into a conference room. The fact many are now working in isolation can add to the despair countless Americans are feeling this week. Unlike one scenario described by an expert McGirt interviewed five years ago, there is less of chance of being expected to chime in during a meeting or have to visit client accounts in neighborhoods with a looming police presence, but the deep sense of loss, sadness and anger isn’t any less pronounced.
So once again, management at companies across the U.S. will have to find a way to bring up these difficult conversations with their colleagues. These talks are difficult, but they are necessary: Pretending that it is business as usual only risks sending a dismissive message to many of your employees at a time when they need that open door, or moments to catch up by video conference or telephone, the most.
Image credit: Josh Hild/Unsplash
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