Capitol riots: Helping employees deal with 'triggering' events

'The majority of things we're witnessing at the minute are historical'

Capitol riots: Helping employees deal with 'triggering' events

Earlier this month, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building in Washington – a move which sent shockwaves across the world.

Five people died in the chaos, as police were called to try and help diffuse the unfolding situation.

This miasma of anger, stress, and political amity has the potential to spill out into the workplace – leaving HR leaders with a problem on their hands.

Read more: Is remote work creating a culture of presenteeism?

Namely, how can employers help support employees through this incredibly triggering time?

“The majority of things we're witnessing at the minute are historical,” prefaced Tamisha Parris, founder of diversity-consulting firm Parris Consulting.

“These are events we’ve never seen before. Right now, especially in the US, people are so divided.”

“I look at the scenes unfolding at Capitol Hill and my heart breaks. It’s incredibly emotional and can be very triggering for employees.”

Read more: Is presenteeism worse than absenteeism?

“I believe, for most people that watched what took place last week, you can't not bring that into the workplace. We come to work as individual human beings - we bring with us our personal experiences and that in turn impacts how we behave.”

There’s no denying that the scenes unfolding in America right now have divided spectators. Debating any kind of political leanings in the workplace is dangerous – but simply avoiding the issue doesn’t help either.

“Not talking about what’s happening in the world around us isn’t really an option,” added Parris.

“It doesn’t simply ‘remove’ what’s happened.”

“This is so emotional for people. This event was something that was so violent and aggressive. And when you think of the things that were coming out of the reports - about people wanting to harm others, to take back what they feel was stolen from them - how do you show up to work and not acknowledge that?”

For HR, it comes down to your organizational environment and culture – “Do you have an open and safe place for people to discuss what they truly feel? If you do, then my recommendation would be that you can encourage conversation. You can even go one step beyond that by starting the conversation. Reach out. It means a lot.” 

If you don’t feel confident the work culture is safe for everyone that doesn’t mean you ignore the needs of your employees – especially when it comes to their mental wellbeing. In this instance, conversations should be approached on an individualized basis. Reach out to your employees individually. Let them know it’s okay to not be okay.”

“Regardless of work environment, remind them that there are resources available to support them. These resources can include what’s included in employee benefit packages or free resources through the government or community organizations.”  

“For HR leaders, I would recommend checking in with your employees on a regular basis. People are feeling very disconnected right now – working remotely and isolation from family – so just dropping a massage asking how someone is doing can make all the difference. And don’t forget to take care of yourself. Self-check-in is critical. Be vulnerable and let your team know that you too are working through all that is happening.”

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