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Addressing Racial Trauma With Employees


The idea of racial trauma may seem like something very personal. But part of the problem with these kinds of issues is that they're pervasive. They get into nearly every aspect of life and wellbeing, and if they aren't talked about and addressed, they can continue to cause a lot of harm.

Fortunately, even difficult issues like addressing racial trauma with employees can be handled with tact and grace. That way, everyone in the workplace feels welcome and comfortable, and that workplace becomes a safe place, as well.

What is Workplace Racial Trauma?

Racial trauma in the workplace consists of both microaggressions and more obvious forms of discrimination. From something as simple as leaving the break room every time an employee of color walks in, to outwardly showing disdain for someone due to their race, racial trauma in the workplace can, unfortunately, be a common occurrence.

This kind of trauma can occur in the workplace through a lack of promotion, not being chosen for teams, exclusion from company-wide activities, and other decisions, both small and large. When it occurs multiple times, especially in more than one workplace, it can take its toll on employees of color.

Signs of Racial Trauma in Employees

When employees have experienced racial trauma, they may hide it well at first. They probably don't want to "rock the boat," and many of them are just trying to do a job and be paid for it, so they can afford to take care of their families. Employees of every color and race generally have this goal, but being able to meet that goal easily is far less stressful for those whose race isn't a workplace issue or concern.

Addressing racial trauma with employees is vital to healing that trauma, and stopping the events that cause it from continuing, as well. The biggest signs of racial trauma for employees include pervasive anxiety, becoming depressed, feeling unwelcome, and anger over the situation and the unfairness that comes with it.

How Workplace Trauma Affects Employees

Workplace trauma affects employees in a number of ways, but the biggest effect is generally the toxicity that develops throughout the workplace. Some employees may feel this effect more than others, just as some will be more bothered by racial tension or discriminatory practices. This could have to do with their specific workplace, or just the way they process information.

But the fact remains that workplace trauma is a problem for employees in general, and that race plays a significant part in that trauma for many of those employees. Employees who are affected by workplace trauma may find that they don't feel safe or comfortable at work. In addition to anxiety and depression, they may also feel suspicious of others, and generally uncomfortable.

Healing Racial Trauma in the Workplace

Healing racial trauma in the workplace starts with addressing racial trauma with employees. However, that can be easier said than done. It's a delicate subject, and one that not everyone wants to talk about. It can also be handled incorrectly, even if the intentions are good. To reduce the chances of that, it's vital that companies learn how to properly address and heal racial workplace trauma here.

How to Address Racial Trauma

Due to the sensitive nature of racial trauma in the workplace, companies may want to consider wellness/wellbeing programs that focus on the issue. These programs are designed with the right phrasing and discussion topics, and are careful to address the sensitivity that comes with this kind of issue. By using these programs, a company will better show its support for its employees.

Steps to Heal Racial Trauma

There are steps that can be taken to heal racial trauma. How much work needs to be done depends on the severity of it within the workplace. Some workplaces and industries have significantly more problems than others, which is worth noting when it comes to addressing the issue. To heal workplace trauma as much as possible, and as easily as possible, consider these steps.

  1. Acknowledge that the trauma is a real thing that is affecting employees and their working environment.
  2. Make it clear that the company does not accept or allow any kind of discrimination regarding race.
  3. Ask employees for their honest feedback on the racial trauma they've experienced.
  4. Consider a wellness or wellbeing program that addresses the issue correctly.
  5. Create policies and continued efforts to reduce any chance of racial trauma in the workplace.
  6. Encourage dialogue for anyone who feels that racial trauma may be occurring.

Final Thoughts: Addressing Racial Trauma With Employees

To properly address racial trauma with employees, companies have to be open to the fact that it's happening. A toxic work environment can develop quickly, and good employees can be lost in the process. Addressing the issue with firmness and sensitivity can help address and heal racial trauma in the workplace.

When it comes to your company’s benefits, make sure that they’re meeting everyone’s unique needs. Your wellbeing solution should be accessible and offer content and programming that meets people where they are with respect to interests, goals, and abilities, while covering all dimensions of wellbeing. People want to see themselves represented in the tools they use and interact with, so make sure your vendors are committed to inclusivity in their product design and community resources.



Caring For Remote Employees

Many organizations continue to work in remote and hybrid models as the pandemic winds down, but many employees, when given the option to return to work, would actually prefer to continue working remotely. Our new guide, Taking Care of Remote Employees: The Key To Business Success Beyond the Pandemic, gives you actionable steps to ensure that your employees feel supported no matter where they are working. 

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