11 October 2023 |

When tragedy strikes

By Gabrielle "GB" Blackwell

Before we get started, have you checked on your people?

Has someone checked on you?

The events happening in Israel and Gaza are really effed up. Civilians on both sides are dying. Families are being tormented. And the trauma being inflicted will surely ripple on for a while.

And while all of this is happening, the majority of us will be expected to keep working and carry on as if there isn’t a full out war breaking loose.

Regardless of your affinities to Israel, Palestine or neither, it’s a great time to check in on your folks and just see if they’re okay.

Working while tragedy hits

November 13, 2015 started off like any other day.

I got ready for work. Caught the bus. Headed into the office and went about my day.

At some point during the day one of my coworkers poked their head into the office I was in and asked, “did you hear about what’s happening in Paris?”.

It had only been 8 months since I was back in the US after living in Paris, France for 2 years. Only 8 months since I had left the friends, family and community I had made overseas. So my coworker knew how much Paris meant to me.

At my coworker’s nudge, I checked the news.

I’d proceed to be glued to the news for the rest of the evening as a series of coordinated terrorist attacks ripped through Paris and the city’s northern suburb, Saint-Denis.

I watched the news in horror at one attack after the next was reported on. And I cried myself to sleep with the news still airing that evening.

It didn’t matter that I was safe and sound on the Northside of Chicago. It didn’t matter that I was more than 4,000 miles away from the danger. I still felt the shock and horror take over me.

In response to the shock and horror, I stopped making my prospect calls and instead called my friends and family in Paris.

Instead of sending out cold emails, I tried messaging the people I knew to do checks for wellbeing.

And instead of checking LinkedIn, I checked Facebook to see if my Parisian people were alright. 

Thankfully, the friends and family I made during my time in Paris were unharmed physically. But, my heart still broke for them, for the people of Paris and for the city I grew to love.

Saying nothing isn’t helpful

When I think back to that day – the day Paris was attacked – I don’t remember my boss checking in on me as everything unfolded. 

What I do remember was thinking to myself, “how can anyone expect me to carry on as if nothing is happening?”. 

So I learned that to proceed forward in work, I’d need to tune out my emotions and just get back to it. 

Easier said than done though as despite my best efforts, I struggled getting my mind back into the work game. The following month, I missed my number because of how hard it was to focus.

How managers can show up

When I think back to the Paris attacks, I wish someone had checked in on me.Something as simple as, “Hey GB, I know you have connections to Paris. How are you?” could have made a world of difference.

It would have helped me know that I wasn’t crazy or unreasonable in feeling my feels. It would have helped me know that I’d be supported while experiencing the shock and horror that I was feeling.

Knowing how common tragic events such as police violence, racial violence, insurrections, school shootings and church shootings are, it’s so important that managers know how to support their people.

Here are a few tips I’ve found to be really helpful and would suggest to anyone who wants to support their team, but isn’t sure where to start:

Tip #1: Ask questions

  • See how people are doing – “How are you doing?”
  • Ask them more than once if you get a brush off answer
  • Check on how they’re feeling about work – “How are you feeling about work today? There’s no wrong answer.”

Tip #2: Share resources

  • If your company has provided materials or resources to share out, make sure your team is aware of how to find them
  • Encourage your team to leverage your Employee Assistance Programs
  • Remind your team about any and all mental health resources available

Tip #3: Create space for your people

  • In a team meeting, open up the floor to discussing what’s happened – it can take a huge weight off of folks when their manager normalizes talking about tragic events
  • Follow up in 1:1s – some people may not feel comfortable talking about sensitive things in groups but will appreciate a 1:1 conversation
  • Remind people that they can take time off – when tragedy hits, it can be very helpful to unplug from work

Tip #4: See how you can support

  • If a member of your team would benefit from time off, encourage them to take it
  • Find ways to offer a helping hand for members of your team whose focus may not be 100% on work
  • Look for ways to get your team bought into a common goal related to relief efforts – maybe this looks like fundraising for a cause to support victims of violence

Wrapping Up

Unfortunately, there are so many really messed up things happening across the world. And, while managers can’t stop violence from erupting, we can be there to support and lead our people through tragic events. 

All we need is to take the time to check in with our people, have the vulnerable conversations, and look for ways to make sure our folks feel supported and cared for.

Something I’m excited about

Have reps who want to be promoted but don’t know how to set themselves apart? 

If so, tune in tomorrow as I’ll be joining the Sell Better Daily Show to chit chat about it. Here’s the link to sign up!

Weekly Reminder

✨ “Whenever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness”. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca  ✨ 

It could be easy to take a side right now. And, hopefully the side you’ll take is the human one.