How to support employees during the powerful movement against racism and social injustice

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We asked DE&I experts what companies should be doing to take action

The events of the past days and weeks have put a spotlight on institutionalized racism and social injustice. #BlackLivesMatter and similar social change initiatives are gaining momentum and visibility, and driving transformation. Many employees are struggling with the emotional and mental impact of current events. Greenhouse supports the fight against racism and social injustice by making our platform available to amplify the voices of experts from the diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) community who can provide advice and guidance on what companies can do to help their employees cope.

We asked five DE&I experts what companies can do to help employees cope with the mental and emotional strain resulting from current events surrounding racism and social injustice. Here is what they shared.

Here’s what they shared:

Empower managers and leaders to support with humility and authentic acknowledgement”

Porter Braswell


Porter Braswell

“The recent bouts of racial injustice have left many Black employees managing grief and frustration while also being expected to focus on their work. Now, more than ever, Black employees need to know that their employers are hearing them and that they acknowledge the realities of police brutality and racism in America and commit to being a part of the solution. At Jopwell, we believe the first step in helping employees cope requires organizations to look internally and take care of Black employees and culture before any external messaging, partnerships, or commitments are announced.”

Porter shared specific actions companies can take right now to help their people.

  • Organize a meeting with manager-level employees to create a consistent plan for support – During this meeting, encourage management to approach these conversations with humility and active listening.
  • Host management office hours – Create time for managers to listen to Black employees in the event they are seeking a place to express feelings and emotions. Further, allow access to any managers hosting office hours in case employees are not comfortable going to their direct manager.
  • Incorporate a “No Questions Asked Day” – Support employee well-being by implementing an extra day off for mental health purposes, without asking for any type of explanation or clarification.
  • Encourage allyship – Place responsibility on non-Black employees to show up as allies to their Black colleagues. Any announcement should acknowledge that there is more work to be done, both (1) internally to consider implicit biases and challenge complacency, and (2) externally to enact systemic change. Make sure to reiterate your company’s commitment to anti-racism. If this is your first time speaking up, recognize that and speak from a place of humility.

Create and hold space for your people, and do everything you can to speak out against racism as a company”

Kiva Wilson

Senior Director

Kiva Wilson

“I would recommend that companies do more than one thing to support their Black employees. Support and amplification of melanated voices requires ongoing engagement and genuine partnership. But before doing anything, it's important we create space for employees to process the trauma caused by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Tony McDade and far too many others.

Companies should tell people managers to explicitly encourage grieving employees to take time off and/or leverage available mental health benefits if the employees so desire.

Companies can provide employees with a brave space to come together to process, share their experiences and surface the emotional and mental strain they're holding. Truth is, we’ve been holding it for quite some time, but it really makes a difference to actually voice our experiences in a space/place where we know you all, as colleagues, are actively listening. In having these conversations, there is an opportunity to foster the psychological safety needed for employees to share and connect about recent events and the impact those events have on their sense of belonging and well-being, while cultivating empathy and trust among teammates. These conversations often work best with a trained facilitator.

It's important that many companies are speaking out against anti-Black violence and injustice right now. However, I would strongly encourage companies to reflect and critically evaluate the organization's long-term commitment to creating a more inclusive, equitable environment for Black employees. We need you to sustain this commitment a week, a month, a year from now.”

Listen with compassion and encourage ongoing education”

Andres Traslavina

Senior Director Executive Global Recruiting

Andres Traslavina

“It is inevitable that human nature tends to make people or organizations react and try to solve or fix a situation when a problem arises. First, companies should start by listening carefully with compassion and an open heart. By listening, we can start a dialogue about an issue that does not deserve a quick fix; this is systematic and a complex problem affecting people from all backgrounds.

Just as individuals are encouraged to learn to undo racism by educating themselves, companies can contribute by educating leaders and employees so we can fully understand the underlying issues.

Speaking from a minority perspective that is not Black, what we need to do now is to focus our efforts on raising awareness to why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important; the issue at hand needs to be addressed, and we must listen, learn and be compassionate.”

Speak out about your company’s stance – stand up against racism publicly so your Black employees know they are supported”

Mary Murphy

Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences Associate Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion

Mary Murphy

“One of the most important things companies can do in this moment to support Black employees is to educate themselves about the current and historic racial injustices that Black people contend with in this country. Reading posts and hashtags of Black employees helps people within organizations understand the current moment through the experiences of those most affected.

Companies should make public statements, commit to specific actions, and dedicate resources to supporting Black employees and employees from other racialized groups who are experiencing the unequal mental and emotional strain of the current race crisis – not to mention the racialized disparities in physical health due to COVID-19 and those that will result from exposure to the virus during the nationwide protests.

One of the things that social cognitive psychologists know is that these incidents and the institutional and structural racism and white supremacy that underlie them take an unequal toll on the cognitive and emotional resources of Black people, making it much more difficult to work productively and effectively. Of course, right now may not be the time to focus on productivity, but it is important to acknowledge that while some people may be able to “tune the noise out” and get to work, for many – and I believe a growing number – the “noise” is actually the “signal” that cannot be ignored or pushed aside.

People need their companies to acknowledge the disparities these communities contend with, both in society and at work. Companies should commit to reviewing and evaluating their policies, practices, procedures and norms to understand how they might contribute to racialized disparities in the workplace and dedicate specific people and financial resources towards shifting them to foster equity and inclusion.

Moreover, companies should communicate the ways they are proactively supporting their Black employees and their communities – including the supports that may currently exist and new resources that support these individuals in this moment (e.g., paid time off). Finally, companies should lead by aligning their investments with their values, and communicate their commitments so that employees and the public know where the company stands. What charitable donations is the company making to support racial justice in the U.S.? Does the organization support a company match so that everyone can act in solidarity?"

Seeing tangible evidence that one’s company understands, acknowledges and is acting to support racial justice and equity – in the world and at work – helps Black employees and employees from other racialized groups feel seen and supported.

Address and support your Black employees now, while creating and upholding long-term strategies to build more inclusive cultures”

Jamie Adasi

Director of DE&I

Jamie Adasi

“When trauma builds up due to experiencing racism, that is sometimes called race-based traumatic stress or racial trauma.” One thing to remember about racial trauma is 1) that it is real, and 2) it is prevalent for many Black employees right now.

Knowing that race-based trauma exists, it is imperative to make space for processing emotions and conversations around race, while also creating long-term strategies for promoting racial equity and inclusion. On top of the pandemic, anti-Black violence and killings of our communities is impacting us to the point of exhaustion.

We’ve recently opened up the dialogue here at Greenhouse through our Virtual realities series – small group conversations for employees to gain a deeper understanding of current events, each other and the communities that surround us.

Whether you are creating a facilitated space like this, or intentionally working with leaders to create opportunities for your Black employees to take time off, do whatever works best for your team while keeping your longer term goals in mind.”

We’re grateful to have the opportunity to share this helpful information with companies, so they can take care of their people and demonstrate the values of inclusion and belonging. It may feel overwhelming to overhaul existing systems, and if that’s the case for you, start with one initiative, or even one action. Make a commitment to take on one piece of advice from this article and these experts, and bring it to life at your company. Change begins with action, no matter how small.

Learn more about DE&I initiatives in hiring and beyond by accessing articles, webinars videos and more.