What You Need to Do with the Elephant in the Room

Every few months or so, there’s a shocking or controversial occurrence that headlines every popular newscast or talk show in the nation.

This time, it’s Michael Brown and Robin Williams. One tackles the issue of race, the other about suicide.

We often express our views on these stories with family or our closest friends; but when we get to work, not a peep.

I can understand why. Those issues are tough to talk about. It’s easier to just place those topics in the “taboo” pile with religion and politics. However, every “hot topic” item can’t be pushed to the side as if it doesn’t exist.

I’m not suggesting getting into heated debates about who or what is right and wrong. That’s a waste of time. (And yes, religion and politics are still off limits for the workplace.) However, leaders do need to turn these instances into a learning opportunity for the whole team.

The story of the teenage Michael Brown being shot by a police officer is a good segue into real discussions about how your organization can proactively embrace diversity. Ask questions like: “How can our organization avoid being put in a situation that would question our fairness regarding race/gender/lifestyle?” and “What could we have done the same or differently in this situation?”

Robin William’s tragic death can be a wake-up call to make sure your employees are doing okay emotionally. (Remember that leaders need to be “heart smart.”) Remind your team that depression is real, and they should seek help if they start showing early symptoms. You can also let them know that there are free mental health resources available.

Instead of turning a blind eye to the current issues going on, turn the situation into a chance to better your team.

So, the next time you see that elephant in the room, introduce it.

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

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