Say Something. Organizations Cannot Be Silent About Black Lives.

Say Something. Organizations Cannot Be Silent About Black Lives.

Paula T. Edgar
June 8, 2020

Many organizations are struggling with the question of whether they should make a statement about the murders of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, or any of the myriad of events that have happened recently with a specific impact on the Black community.

The answer is yes. Listed below are four recommendations on how to make a statement that will resonate with, be responsive to, and be supportive of your Black employees, colleagues, allies, and the community within your organization.

Step 1: Navigate around the discomfort.

We are at a tipping point in our society regarding organizational responsibility to address racism. We are in the middle of a global pandemic and yet many people are so traumatized and angry about the lack of justice afforded to Black people that protests are occurring worldwide. Business, as usual, cannot happen now.  Silence is deafening. Silence is painful. The perception of your silence may be viewed as a lack of care for the people who work for you and with you. It is incumbent upon leaders to reflect on what may be causing them discomfort regarding developing a statement regarding Black Lives Matter. Ask yourself: What is making me uncomfortable about addressing issues of racial injustice? Why am I hesitant to say Black Lives Matter? Why don’t I want to use the word Black? Remaining silent is not an example of leadership, and it is definitely not inclusive leadership. So, who are you as a leader? That is the question you should be asking yourself.

Step 2: Commit to saying something.

At this point, making a statement and not getting it exactly right is a better option than not making a statement at all. While any statement your organization releases should be timely, it is also important to be mindful and not reactionary. Ideally, the statement that you develop should come from the person highest in the organization, and it should be written with empathy and as much organizational spirit and tone as possible. It should also be personal. For many leaders, this can be challenging, because generally any statement from leadership tends to be very curated and overly vetted.

The recommendation is that a statement is first drafted in the voice of the leader of the organization, and then reviewed by other stakeholders to provide feedback. You may want to solicit feedback from your Black colleagues before you release the statement, however, unless those colleagues are a part of the usual vetting, you should proceed with caution. Your Black colleagues want acknowledgment of what is happening and an organizational commitment to change going forward. This is not the time to add an additional burden on them to also have to consult when it is not a part of their role. Remember, institutional voice is important, but authenticity and commitment are what resonate with employees, colleagues, and customers.

Step 3: Commit to doing something

One of the conundrums that organizations are facing now is that saying something also comes with a requirement to do something. Back your words with action. Even if your organization has previously committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, this new inflection point requires renewed commitment and action. If in the past your organization has not turned words about diversity and inclusion into action, now is the time. There will be continued issues in relation to bias and discrimination in our society that you will need to be responsive to. Why not put resources and systems in place so that you are better prepared to respond in the future? Many statements have included a commitment to anti-racism training, or to instituting diversity and inclusion initiatives. The recommendation is that you need to engage with diversity and inclusion experts to do this – whether this means using your internal D&I professional and/or engaging consultants. Do not try to do this on your own, because oftentimes good intent coupled with reactionary decisions leads to organizational challenges because the actions are not well thought out or strategic.

Step 4: Be prepared for constructive feedback.

Once a statement has been written, and any guidance and feedback has been incorporated, release the statement internally and externally. Once released, if the feedback you receive is not all positive, be open to that. When organizations take a stance in an area in which they have either not done the necessary work or made commitments that were not carried out in the past, the feedback received may point out a lack of confidence that the words will not lead to action in the future.

An observation I have had when my business partner, Wendy Amengual Wark and I conduct diversity assessments of organizations is that during the process, leaders often voice a fear of what they may hear in an anonymous assessment. What we relay to them is that whether they use the assessment as a venue or not, the perceptions and experiences still exist, but they are unaware of them due to a lack of feedback. The same can be said here. If there is negative feedback that comes from issuing a statement, you must deal with it. You can do that by acknowledging that you can do better and by acting proactively and strategically going forward.

But what they will say, if you say nothing at this pivotal time, is that you said nothing.

6 Tips for Working From Home Amidst the COVID-19 Corona Virus Pandemic

6 Tips for Working From Home Amidst the COVID-19 Corona Virus Pandemic
By Paula T. Edgar 
March 18, 2020

The impact of the COVID-19 Corona Virus on our global community has been vast and created many challenges. One significant challenge that many people are dealing with is the recommended social isolation to “flatten the curve”. People are being encouraged or mandated to work remotely from home instead of commuting to work and school. As everyone adjusts to this new short-term normal, I am sharing some tips and best practices that make working from home productive, using the acronym CORONA (sorry).

C– Communication

O– Own your space

R – Remember you are working

O – Only do the task at hand

N – Notify stakeholders

A – Anticipate distractions

Communication

Phone Calls and Video Calls

  • Maintaining contact with colleagues, clients, and/or professors while working remotely is important to foster greater engagement, accountability, and trust.
  • When we are communicating via phone calls or emails, we cannot read people’s intentions or frustrations and it can challenge communication, especially when working with remote teams. In addition to phone calls, I recommend scheduling video conferences to connect with others. Video calls help to maintain human connection visually through seeing others’ eyes and facial expressions.
  • In some cases, managers do not trust that their employees will be productive when they are working remotely, so it is necessary to set up consistent/scheduled meetings, (via video call if possible) to set expectations and timelines and to check in on projects and deliverables.

Email

  • Most of our communication happens via email. It’s important to make sure when crafting emails to be personable instead of just getting to the point, to check in with people, have pleasantries at the beginning of communication, and also to close out with something thoughtful so people feel heard, even via email.
  • During the current situation, it’s even more important than usual to focus on specifics when drafting communication (use bullet points) and to keep emails short and concise, communication so that your correspondence does not add to the overwhelming amount of information that people are receiving.

Social Media

Social media communication and content can sometimes be a distraction, but it can also be an effective way of staying in real-time contact with your colleagues to combat the effects of social isolation. Apps like Slack, WhatsApp, and Group Me are helpful to maintain the human connection with your professional, personal, and school networks.

Own Your Space

Organize your workspace

  • Most people’s normal workspace is within an office setting, and they may not have an office at home. During this time of working remotely, it is beneficial to create a dedicated workspace, if possible.
  • Having a dedicated workspace helps your environment to be “work like” and puts you in a work mindset. One issue with people working from home is that their space might be too comfortable and can prevent them from getting and staying in the right mindset to be “on” and productive.
  • Having a dedicated workspace can also make your participation in video calls appear more professional.

Dress the Part

  • When working from home, it is very enticing to want to stay as comfortable as possible (i.e. pajamas), however changing into business casual dress (emphasis on casual) is a good compromise for a home setting, especially when communicating via video call.
  • Dressing the part also helps you to shift to work mode mentally, which can beneficially impact your work productivity.

Remember You Are Working 

  • When working remotely, it is important to follow your typical work schedule as much as possible, so that you can be available for your colleagues and clients. Sticking to your normal workday routine can also help to put and keep you in the work mindset.
  • Start your workday off with a to-do list of what you want to accomplish, to hold yourself accountable.
  • Do whatever you have to do to be prepared to start your workday. Have your phone and laptop charged so you don’t have any tech issues and can start immediately.

Only Do the Task At Hand

  • Studies show that employees can be more productive when working from home because it allows for a flexible schedule, however attempting to multitask has been shown to be ineffective.
  • While adhering to set office work schedules is a best practice for collaborative work, this is sometimes not when people are most productive. Working from home allows you the option to be more in control of your projects and to work when you are in the right frame of mind, but remember, don’t multitask!
  • I use and highly recommend the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that allows you to be more productive by getting work done in small chunks with small breaks.
    • 20 mins work on one task – no distractions (phone on silent, no checking emails or social media)
    • 10 mins break
    • 20 mins on a new task or the same task
    • Repeat

This method is very effective for getting assignments done because 20 minutes is digestible and easy to manage (in both thought and action).

Notify Stakeholders

  • On a daily basis, in order to counteract the perception that you may be less productive while working from home, it may be helpful to send a brief end-of-day synopsis of what you have accomplished to your manager or team. (“Here’s what I got done, and here’s what I will get done tomorrow”)
  • Everyone has different communication and management styles and also different preferences for when and how they want to be updated. Manage up by anticipating any potential requests and by being proactive. A best practice is to affirmatively check-in with your manager in order to facilitate better communication, rather than waiting for them to check-in with you.

Anticipate Distractions

  • When working from home, there are lots of distractions – your bed, family members, tv, pets, etc. It’s important to know when you are most productive or when you will have the least amount of distractions and schedule your project time or conference calls around those times.
  • Talk to others in your home in advance to let them know when you’re working and should not be disturbed.
  • At the start of any conference or video calls, give the other attendees a heads-up by letting them know that you are working from home and that distractions may occur.
  • Use the mute button when you are not speaking to prevent attendees from hearing any distracting sounds during calls.
  • Instead of trying to hide your personal circumstances, be real and authentic about your situation so your colleagues can understand and empathize. 

In Closing

As a reminder, when done properly by incorporating the resources and tips above, working from home can be productive and mitigate some of the stress we are going through in this time of on-going change.

Be well, stay safe, and wash your hands!

Paula T. Edgar, Esq.
Partner
Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC
Paula@InclusionStrategy.com
www.InclusionStrategy.com

10 Reasons Why You Need a Coach

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How To Get Through The Workday When You’re In Pain

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Quick Advice for Recent Law School Graduates

You should not be reading this… You should be reading your bar exam study materials! Whether you have already secured a job or not, passing the bar should be your greatest priority right now.  Bar study is not fun, but you only want to do it once.   Put your best effort into this time (plus a little more) and hustle until you’ve taken (and passed) the bar exam.