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Let’s Talk About [insert national headline here] In the Workplace

group of people sitting around a coffee table

We spend one-third of our work day on the job, and we are hesitant to discuss [……]. We purposely filter our conversations to avoid potential verbal conflicts, unfavorable opinions, and/or emotionally-charged reactions in response to conversations that are being held daily in the news and on social media. [……] is one of many topics at the forefront of the media, and we haven’t had the conversation with our cubicle or office mates. Aren’t you curious to know what your coworkers’ thoughts are on this topic?

Whatever that topic may be, there should be a space or an opportunity for that discussion to occur, as long as it does not violate organizational documented guidelines. Topics that are considered taboo to discuss in the workplace are determined by the organization’s culture, and it may be difficult to measure which discussions are inappropriate to have. In any case, please do not compromise relationships with coworkers and leadership by abruptly initiating a discussion on an emotionally-charged subject at your upcoming All Staff Meeting. Talk to your leadership about planning a place and time for employees to openly discuss the topic of interest. Consider developing a facilitated forum or presentation to establish ground rules for a safe and trusted speaking and listening environment. At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Office of the Ombudsman is a good resource for finding a trained facilitator. It is particularly important to be mindful of employees who may have been personally and/or professionally impacted by the topic.

Psychological trauma caused by current tragic events can result in loss of productivity among employees. If you have suffered trauma in response to an event, please contact your organization’s employee relations office, such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at the NIH.

A presentation given by The Winters Group titled "Trauma and Its Impact on the Workplace During the Age of #BlackLivesMatter", reminds us that “organizations do not exist within a vacuum”. Issues that occur at home and around the world through news sharing impacts what happens in the workplace. To this end, organizations and individual employees should not shut down opportunities to dialogue about or provide supportive resources to employees impacted by tragic events, regardless of what the nature of the event is fueled by. The Winters Group’s presentation also reminds us that “organizational norms/culture and how organizations respond during times of tragedy can impact employees’ psychological safety and inclusion.” To truly embrace equity, diversity, and inclusion is to provide spaces and opportunities for employees to verbally express themselves and to truly bring their whole selves to work.