Workers of color bond following police violence against black Americans
- Following incidents of police violence and shootings against unarmed black people in the U.S., employees of color internalize and struggle with processing these events, according to a research paper published in the Academy of Management Review. Co-authors Angelica Leigh and Shimul Melwani of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill theorized that these incidents might even drive employees of color to "form stronger connections across their organizational and social identities, bonding employees and groups who may not typically engage with one another."
- In a statement provided by AOM, researchers said they hoped to understand how employees of color react to police violence and similar incidents and how their reactions are received in the work environment. The authors proposed that new relationships forged in the wake of tragedy encourage employees to speak up on behalf of their own social group and form stronger bonds with other employees — creating a sense of belonging and making their organizations more inclusive for employees of color, AOM said.
- "Black Americans are three times more likely to be killed by police than White Americans and are five times more likely to be killed while they are unarmed. However, very little research has been conducted to understand what happens in the workplace following these events," the researchers said in a statement. "While we as a society must address the ongoing violence against Black Americans, it is refreshing to see the reactions to these incidents can have a positive impact."
With the prevalence of race disparities in U.S. policing and related tragedies in the U.S., employers might need to be prepared to offer emotional support in the form of external counseling referrals and EAP access to workers grappling with the aftermath of such events. In a more long-term sense, championing diversity and creating a culture of inclusion can help employees find solidarity and solace with co-workers whose experiences align with their own, potentially helping them bounce back when a tragic external event occurs.
The UNC researchers recommend a similar strategy for managers to support and empower workers in the wake of external events. AOM said researchers encourage employers to provide "an environment that fosters the creation of new and stronger relationships between employees," because such an environment, "allows the bonds that form to benefit the organization long after the incident passes."
HR might want to advise managers on how to best support and encourage these connections. By doing so, it can send a message to workers that their organization is a safe, inclusive space where everyone is valued and respected.