It’s hard to know what to say after mass shootings rock a nation. But just a day after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, diversity, equity and inclusion consultant Kim Crowder put in words exactly what businesses need to hear.
“This week, many of our team members are hurting. They are also in fear of what could happen to them, those they love, and their fellow coworkers,” Crowder’s newsletter began. “Today, we wake up and go to work as if nothing happened, or at least we try to,” she wrote after recounting the horrific events that transpired at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and Robb Elementary School in Uvalde — leading to a combined total of 31 people killed and many others injured.
The world may be trying to get on with its scheduled programming, but Crowder said businesses should take more than a moment of silence in the coming weeks to evaluate how they are handling the safety and wellbeing of their employees, especially those belonging to protected classes.
Depending on how you count, as Al Jazeera reports, the United States experienced between six and 818 mass shootings in 2021. The number rockets to 818 incidents when you include any shooting where four or more people were injured, including the shooter. The counts of both the Gun Violence Archive and Mass Shooting Tracker reach to the hundreds.
We can’t continue with business as usual, Crowder said in a recent conversation with TriplePundit. “I think at this point, we can all agree enough is enough,” she said. Crowder herself, when walking around her local grocery store these days said she wonders whether someone could barge in and decide that she, a Black woman, doesn’t belong. The shooting at Tops isn’t the only incident of targeted racial violence the U.S. has seen in recent years.
Clearly, the U.S. has some large-scale changes it needs to make to safeguard its residents. Among the first steps businesses can take, Crowder said, is to speak up about government policies toward mass shootings, collaborate with other business leaders, redirect political spending and lobbying, and even create a think tank to more closely study the issue, if needed.
“We saw this happen in 2020, where New York City business owners wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio about those experiencing homelessness in New York City, particularly during COVID,” Crowder said. “And they came together and wrote a letter. And so this can happen; it has happened.”
Business leaders can activate “their collective access to power,” she added.
Mass shootings and additional tragedies don’t have to feel personal for a company to act, Crowder insisted. "[If] your team members are in some way impacted, then it should be a priority for you,” she said. And while political movement can take some time, office safety policies can be enacted immediately. “You’d be surprised how many companies do not have these policies already in place,” Crowder said.
In her newsletter, Crowder wrote: “Workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion are more than focusing on internal practices. It is about identifying and supporting what is dire and essential to team members and the communities we serve.”
So many of the mass shootings we hear about occur in workplaces. Employees have gotten ready in the morning to travel to work and do their job, whether it’s stocking shelves or teaching a class. Some workplaces may not yet have the safety measures needed for threatening situations. In those cases, Crowder recommends the services of a workplace safety consultant. After all, a business can’t simply implement one safety policy to cover all cases and all employees. Some employees may work in an office and others in a warehouse. Certain employees may be targeted for one reason or another. A consultant can create nuanced plans that respond specifically to employee needs. “The more our workplaces can start thinking about that, the better,” Crowder said.
One example of a safety-related skill a consultant may teach employees relates to intercepting subtle threats, Crowder noted. Employees may be taught to create a distraction away from the commotion, like dropping a jar. That distraction can diffuse a situation that may have otherwise escalated.
Crowder said she was happy to hear that her young niece had the day off from school after the Uvalde shooting. She added that employees need that same sort of sensitivity, too. Maybe an office will cancel all meetings for the rest of the week so team members can breathe or provide employees the option of taking a day off, Crowder said.
Yes, ensuring your employees feel cared for does pay off. According to the Harvard Business Review, employee attrition attributed to mental health factors was already high in the U.S. in 2019, but has since risen. Taking actions for the safety and wellbeing of employees can also help a nation heal and truly build back stronger after tragedy.
Image credit: Nelly Antoniadou via Unsplash
Roya Sabri is a writer and graphic designer based in Illinois. She writes about the circular economy, advancements in CSR, the environment and equity. As a freelancer, she has worked on communications for nonprofits and multinational organizations. Find her on LinkedIn.