CN Executive Coaching Corner

Employers: “I Can’t Concentrate!”

Crispus bostonmassacrebychampney

Statistically speaking, Americans should be more fearful of the local cops than “terrorists.” according to recently released statistics. “Americans are eight timesmore likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist, estimates aWashington’s Blog report based on official statistical data.”  For Blacks, the picture is even more stark, grim and numbing, bearing a meaning perhaps not intended in that original reference. Though gun play statistics make the picture look different in the UKthe realities are equally disconcerting.

Neither the statistics nor the media tell the whole story of the impact.

From Chelsea, UK to Ferguson and Baltimore, USA, your Black employees have been assaulted…perhaps not physically, but psychologically, as the news storiesand the images just keep coming. Blacks may experience a sense of discomfit, besieged, self-conscious, distracted. It is exhausting, draining, and for some, depressing and potentially debilitating.

Your non-Black employees have to work alongside Blacks, rely on them, support them, and cooperate to make the team as productive as it can be. They must support Black managers and senior leaders. But for many goodhearted white employees, the news has been profoundly troubling, deeply disturbing and worrisome…perhaps a measure of social guilt, legitimate worry about the state of their Black coworkers, or at the very least, distracting when working shoulder to shoulder with Black coworkers.

All the while, each day of the week, the elephant is in each room, each team meeting, and at every water cooler and snack corner in which Black employees may be found.  Your employees have work to do. All you ask of them, equally and regardless of the “diversity” they bring to the workplace, is that they show up every morning, bring their “A” game, and give their all for eight to ten.

And yet, I can’t concentrate. Can you?

Are you assessing how much of a toll the current state of race relations is taking on your employees, and considering what you can do about it?

Can anyone of any race truly breathe when the elephant of a de facto ‘race war’ is sucking the air out of the room, the vortex of distraction fueled by the media frenzy around race relations?  Do you honestly believe your diverse employees can simply turn it all off when they hit the office…particularly if your office is in one of the affected regions receiving the media attention…or if one of your employees was directly affected, perhaps even out protesting the night before?

Mutual silence on the matter can be deafening and diminishing. Attempts to articulate feelings and concerns can be awkward, if not volatile. One-sided openness of expression can be frustrating. Writing #RaceTogether on the coffee cups beside the office Keurig dispenser and pouring caffeine on the combustible issue of race is most likely not going to help improve the climate, or your employees’ ability to cope, manage it or shut it out.

Assuming you’ve got a racially diverse workforce, what, if anything, do you say to your employees? What do you do for them?  What are your behavioral, performance and relational expectations for your employees amidst the intensifying social conflict around the issue of race?

Your “Diversity” posters, brochure and programs no doubt show off the smiling rainbow of employee demographics in your workplace.  But how are you bolstering your employees’ ability to concentrate, shake off the news of the day, and stay focused on their duties and responsibilities?  Most of all, how are you keeping the volatile conflict of US/UK dysfunctional race issues from fracturing your workplace?

Are you engaged in helping all of your employees deal with the emotional and psychological challenges they are all carrying in to the office along with their lunch boxes and attache cases?  Are you looking for ways to make your workplace a refuge from the social conflict of the day?

When it comes to the issue of today’s pervasive and highly public race-based conflict as a “diversity” matter and all the accompanying diversity tensions, as an employer, do you:

a) Simply acknowledge and hope for the best?

b) Ignore it, conduct business as usual, and pretend it doesn’t exist or affect your workplace?

c) Confront it and take bold steps to manage it to overcome its affect on your employees?

d) None of the above/Other…

Copyright © 2014 – Robert D. Jones – All Rights Reserved


Learn more about how the CultureNeutral® Framework can change the way you view and manage the dynamics of natural human variety in any workforce, and neutralize the related conflict within your organization.

Image Credit: Crispus Attucks (1723-1770)

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