A Moment that Matters

Yesterday, on April 20, rage and fear in America were replaced with relief and hope. Justice was served when the jury found ex-police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three counts of murder and manslaughter for taking the life of George Floyd.

Around the nation, people are responding to this pivotal decision with a range of emotions – from celebrations in the street to shrugs. Whether you believe today’s verdict signals the start of lasting change – or does not particularly affect you – this is a historical turning point to many people, lots of them in your workplace. As business leaders, we have a duty to provide a safe space for our employees to express their emotions in these collective moments that matter.

I’m calling on all people managers to set aside just a few minutes in their busy day today to reach out to their teams, ask how they are doing, and to listen without judgment or explanation. We have the power to create a workplace that welcomes people to bring their whole selves to the job every day – even when days are fraught with the fallout of world events.

In my workplace, which is 100 percent virtual and remote, stretching from the United States across the Atlantic Ocean to the United Kingdom, I will join with my peers to pause and listen to our employees’ voices. Together, we will encourage our colleagues to respect one another’s diverse opinions and reactions, and we will offer empathy and support.

As for me, I can’t stop thinking about the unconscious bias training my team and I received last year as a result of us joining the movement known as the CEO Action Pledge for Diversity & Inclusion. In one of the modules from Procter & Gamble called “The Talk,” a Black mom teaching her teenage daughter how to drive a car clues her into how to behave when she is pulled over by a police officer. Her rationale is chilling. As a white mom who taught two teenage daughters how to drive, this is one lesson that never even occurred to me at the time.

Now, however, that cautious sensibility is part of my reality. Both my daughters have been pulled over for no apparent reason other than the cars were driven by their husbands – one a Latino, the other a Black man. I worry when my sons-in-law leave the house wearing hoodies and even when they go for a run.

On the job, no one simply looking at me on a Zoom call or working alongside me on a project could know how much the George Floyd verdict impacts me personally. But it does. That’s because I have skin in the game. But honestly, we all have skin in this game as human beings. I appreciate that I work for a company that nurtures a culture of safety and empathy and encourages me to bring my whole self to work.  I’m grateful to be a part of an organization that respects all people and gives them a voice. Because when you listen, you find what truly matters.

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