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How to Develop Workplace Agreements for Processing Current Events

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working deeply with teams that are struggling to integrate societal violence with daily mundane work plans. Here are some of the things I’ve heard:


“I dropped my child off at school today, and I’m still processing Uvdale. I feel like I should be past this, but I’m not. I don’t want to work today, but it’s not like I can take weeks off every time something like this happens.”


“I don’t know if my colleagues understand or have context for how racial violence makes me feel as a person of color. I reached out to them for support and their response made me feel like I don’t even know if I should be on this team.” 


“I don’t even know what’s important anymore. This just feels like so much.”


We’re in that liminal space where news cycles are still telling us about shootings (I spent some time in prayer for those lost in the Highland Park, Illinois shooting on Monday), we’re still processing the ones that became national conversations, and many are trying to move out of the initial shock and grief.


This is all the time. How do we practically (and with boundaries) stay connected to what’s happening in the world and our country when it feels overwhelming to do so? What does this look like personally, and what does this look like for teams?


This is a good moment to refresh and remind us (myself included) of the most common practice my team and I use to balance the ongoing grief of being social impact stewards in times of violence, chaos, and loss. 


Ask your team how they would like to be held at work during disturbing current events - before those current events occur, and create explicit agreements about appropriate ways to process in your specific work setting


Far too often, I see businesses and organizations approach their team with these inquiries once a shooting, racial violence, or disturbing incident has occurred. When someone is actively upset, many times they don’t know exactly how they’d like to be supported - that rational part of their brain isn’t as active as their tender heart. In those moments, they just need to be held.


You can ask a series of questions like this, in a survey or in 1:1 meetings: 


  • “Our organization focuses on creating equity in food systems/climate change/social finance/etc. We know this means we’ll be up close and personal with the inequities and injustice the communities we serve face - and that’s separate and apart from the violence our society is experiencing in these destabilizing times. Just as we strive to hold those we serve as whole people, we also strive to hold our team as whole people. How would you like to be supported by our business/organization when challenging events occur?” 
  • “What are specific practices/policies that would be supportive to you? These could include longer meeting check-ins, proactive reaching out from your supervisor to check-in, a facilitated team lunch with an on-call outside facilitator, explicit reminders when events happen that mental health days are available, etc.”
  • For managers/supervisors: “How can the leadership team support you with managing your team’s workload if they need to take mental health days and shift timelines?”


No workplace policies or practices will erase the discomfort inherent in being vulnerable. It’s important to prepare yourself for the inevitable “I need to move this quickly because it’s heavy” feeling when creating office-wide policies to respond to current events. 


It’s also important to allow each person to determine their own practices and create team procedures that honor everyone’s needs. These questions should be asked privately, to allow for opting in and opting out. And - the way your team integrates current events will have an impact on the way your organization/business integrates issues of equity and justice into its general strategy, so some level of collective discussion is appropriate. Gotta love nuance! 


How did this resonate? How will you either implement or review the practices you use with yourself and your team? 


I’m holding our collective mental/emotional health with tenderness and care. I’m with you.



  1. If you’d like our team to support you with implementing practices like this on your team, we’d love to speak with you - you can schedule a call here.

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