On May 25, 2020, a black man named George Floyd died after being arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Arrested for buying cigarettes with an alleged counterfeit $20 bill, Floyd was then pinned on the ground with Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck for over nine minutes. Floyd was face down on the ground with handcuffs on during the incident. On April 20, 2021, Chauvin was tried for the murder of George Floyd and convicted on all accounts of murder. Americans all around the country braced themselves for the outcome of the trial, and many were relieved at the guilty verdict sentenced to Chauvin.
This situation again raised questions about police brutality and racism within the United States. From this incident, the Black Lives Matter movement was born. From this incident, people and organizations alike are wondering what can be done to address issues related to racial injustice.
It is important, perhaps even critical, that employers begin to prepare themselves on how to best help their employees and break down some of the racial barriers in the United States. This court ruling, along with an overall push by the Black Lives Matter organization, will most likely have an effect on how organizations will function moving forward, which makes it critical that employers prepare how to revamp their organizations moving forward.
Resetting the Workplace as We Know it
According to a Just Capital survey, many Americans believe that the Coronavrius allowed “an opportunity for large companies to hit ‘reset’ and focus on doing right by their workers, customers, communities, and the environment.” This is especially true in relationship to some of the social issues that presented themselves during 2020, including the death of George Floyd.
The following key areas provide suggestions of how companies might go about these changes that employees are hoping to see in the workplace.
1. Allowing for Mental Health Days and Time Off
Because the George Chauvin trial involved criminal prosecution related to potential police brutality, many employees might have been distracted from their everyday work. Historically, employers may have looked at the distraction of their employees as a potential lack of workplace productivity. However, with mental health and wellness being a major epidemic affecting Americans, now more than ever employers should be understanding of the reasons their employees might be distracted.
It is especially important to be aware of how the Derek Chauvin trial could be affecting employees of color, particularly black employees. The Chauvin trial might have brought up old traumas for these employees that they were dealing with last year.
That said, employers should be concerned for the welfare of their employees and should be doing things to promote their health and wellbeing. Not only should employers encourage employees to take off work whenever necessary, but they should also have a plethora of resources available to their employees to help with mental health and racial concerns for employees.
2. Providing Resources
As discussed above, the Derek Chauvin trial and the Coronavirus both demonstrated the importance of having abundant resources available to employees.
For all employees of all racial backgrounds, mental health resources, racial support groups, and other organizations and programs can help to reduce the stress, anxiety, and trauma employees are facing.
In addition to providing resources, employers should do a better job at hearing out their employees. This should happen on an everyday basis; this kind of change does not require organized discussion. Rather, employers should hear out their employees each and every day, providing them with the emotional, mental, and moral support needed. What matters more than anything is having genuine empathy for your employees and providing them with the necessary help.
3. Educate your Executives & Employees
Many in the black community feel misunderstood by their counterparts. An easy way to facilitate change on this matter is to take it upon yourself, as an executive or an employee, to educate yourself about racism. Additionally, employers should provide opportunities for employees to be educated—through seminars, open discussions, and workshops. Provide employees with the necessary opportunities to be educated on how racism affects others and how it affects coworkers in the workplace.
Ultimately, the key to success here is to be prepared. Know how to best educate yourself and your employees, provide resources, and guide how your workplace handles issues related to race. Let's learn from the Derek Chauvin trial, and the best way is to have an action plan set in place that will push forward actual change in the workplace.