Updated: Jun 3
How am I supposed to be okay at work, after this? I’ve been asking myself this question over and over these last 30 days. How? For the past month, I've consumed and digested news of brutality and racial injustice in this country. For the past month, I've shown up to work and compartmentalized feelings of sadness and anger.
Sad for the ones who are left behind after a loved one is taken from them...
Sad for the ones whose last moments on earth were brutal and recorded for the entire world to see...
Sad because I have to put a timer on my emotions because I have to get ready for work...
Angry because despite these moments captured on camera, I'll have to hear "but what happened before" "if he/she wasn't doing anything, they wouldn't be in this situation" "let the courts handle it" "no need to protest/riot it doesn't solve anything"...
Angry because I am expected to separate work from personal and not talk about it...
Angry because I'm expected to still perform at peak levels with hardly any room for error while simultaneously holding back tears all day...HOW?
Do you know how much mental energy that takes? Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe what happens when I get home. How is that fair to our families, friends, loved ones? We spend 8+ hours a day in spaces where we have to give 200% every day. There is no letting up because one small mistake is magnified larger than your greatest accomplishment.
Do you know what is and has always been so overwhelmingly frustrating? The complete lack of basic awareness and empathy for the BIPOC in an organization, when these televised, national, stories of trauma and violence against people who look like them, are ignored and dismissed.
The companies that scream “we are a family” “our tribe” and “our company reflects the community it serves” are always so unusually silent during these times, while NEVER failing to capitalize on a culture that it will never stand up for, to sell their products. While you can’t control your company’s response, you can control yours.
So, let’s talk about it. What do you do when you have to go to work after a traumatizing racial event?
1. Know that you don’t have to go to work. Now before you get fired for not reading it all the way through, know that I mean, you can take a day to feel your feelings. You do not need to push through your emotions to “perform at work”. Don’t put yourself in an environment where there may not be any sensitivity, awareness, or care toward what you’re going through. It makes it worse and magnifies what you already feel.
2. Tap into EAP (employee assistance program). Did you know you may have free therapy sessions you can use to talk to a licensed therapist for free? Most companies don’t advertise it much, but it is a benefit offered to all employees and I am encouraging you to take advantage of that.
3. Tell the truth. Yes, we’ve somehow adjusted to this unrealistic and implied expectation that using the default “I’m okay” is okay. How will you be heard if you don’t speak? Understand though, your truth may not be met with openness and understanding. Understand that your truth will make some people uncomfortable. Understand it’s not your job to make people feel comfortable when it comes to matters related to how you feel. Know your truth will bring awareness if nothing else.
4. No, you don’t have to be the spokesperson for how your counterparts can become an ally. Don’t feel the pressure to be “the one” to explain both your pain and the solution. You leave no room for yourself to continue to heal and feel. There are tons of articles and videos that point to that very answer, you don’t need to be the source - it can be Googled.
5. Yes, you are still professional when you correct someone telling you how to feel. This one is not up for debate. Under no circumstance does someone get to tell you how to feel – they’re YOUR FEELINGS. The dismissive and tone-deaf suggestions are tired and played and you don’t have to take anyone’s “advice”.
Your sanity and mental health are important.
You are still professional even if you need a day off to scream and cry.
Your voice is important and necessary in all spaces.
Do yourself a favor and relieve yourself from the pressure to show up in spaces when you physically or emotionally can’t. You are not at your best no matter how much you try to hide, compartmentalize, or mask it. Instead of trying to show up for everyone else, this time, show up for yourself.