How employers can help employees cope with protests

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — As businesses begin to open back up amid the Coronavirus pandemic, protests against the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man by police, have swept across the country.

A local professor says businesses will need to address this because of the emotional toll it could cause employees.

“It’s been horrific and overwhelming and intellectually challenging,” said Dr. Angela Spranger, an assistant professor of management at Christopher Newport University’s Luter School of Business.

Spranger studies antisocial work behavior such as sexual harassment and bullying.

For the last year, she’s studied workplace violence where the actions of shoots have seemed unprovoked such as the Virginia Beach Municipal Center Shooting and the Navy Yard shooting in Washington D.C. in 2013.

Spranger believes it’s important for businesses right now to have open communication with their employees about current events to let them know they care.

“The first priority should’ve been today is where you stand, where the organization stands, and to re-enforce the feeling they are safe, they are seen, and they are valued,” she said.

It can be hard for employees to sometimes come to work and distance themselves from their feelings and opinions.

That’s why Spranger says mangers should take the lead and allow people to voice their concerns about race, gender equality, and political orientation to prevent future problems down the road.

“These things come into the workplace with people. We can’t expect people to leave their personas at the door,” she said.

Spranger also addressed the “bad apple” ideology some have used to describe police officers who abuse their power. She believes the term instead should be “bad barrel,” which would instead describe a toxic work system that allows “bad apples” to exist.

She is hoping to work with local police departments to learn how they operate and how it’s reflected in their work culture.

Spranger believes that many businesses, police departments included, may have to unlearn behaviors due to previous biases and encourages them to engage with those most affected.

“Right now, it’s communicating with people, listening to people, and hearing them out,” she said.

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