Q: The last paragraph of your column from last week struck a chord with many of our employees who emailed us the column. You wrote: “What is happening in Ukraine is creating widespread grief. Are there ways to channel your employees’ anger and feelings of helplessness into ways to respond in humanitarian ways that support Ukrainians fleeing the invasion? »
We like your idea but hesitate. A member of our team insists that this is beyond our reach as an employer. What can we do? What problems should we avoid?
A: Mental health, well-being and employee support are within the reach of every employer. As leaders of your company, you can act with empathy and meaningful support to help your employees overcome the emotional impact of the devastation in Ukraine.
Relatives in Ukraine
Employees who have family members and friends in Ukraine feel grief and despair. They may feel alone in their grief. Managers and colleagues who show they care can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and helplessness among these employees.
Employers can help affected employees by offering special unpaid and paid time off, flexibility on working hours, and relaxed cell phone policies.
Media images of the invasion of Ukraine can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans, refugees, immigrants and others.
Employers can help by training managers to support triggered employees. In addition to listening and showing empathy, managers can ensure that employees in need are aware of employer-sponsored assistance programs, as well as community resources. One such resource is www.alaska211.org, and employees who dial 211 can access a Community Resource Specialist.
Employees may have family members who are expatriates and stranded in Russia. US citizens have been advised to consider leaving Russia immediately as the US Embassy may not be able to help them if they choose to stay, but some have not left.
Why not before?
Some employees are shocked and angry that their colleagues and many others in the United States are treating the Ukraine invasion differently than other global conflicts or American tragedies.
Senior managers or HR professionals can host town hall meetings or discussion forums with all staff. Workplace chats allow employees to talk about how they feel. These discussions can give all employees a sense of camaraderie.
Before creating a forum, make sure you have a moderator who sets meeting guidelines, so that all participants listen and respect colleagues who have differing opinions.
Employers can match employee pledges to humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross that protect the lives of victims of armed conflict. It fights helplessness through action and unites employees to contribute to a common goal.
Employers can train their managers to be aware of and help employees who need help. At the same time, not all managers know how to deal with grief; don’t ask managers to take on the role of mental health advisors.
Employers should also be prepared for employees to ask what happens to their work if they want temporary leave to fight in Ukraine or help refugees in Poland.
Finally, employers can commit to a corporate culture based on empathy and compassion. As an example, employers can create a Paid Time Off Loan (PTO) bank so that employees can offer PTOs to those who need them.
Problems to avoid
Employers must maintain confidentiality about what employees share privately with them. Allow employees to opt out of the above efforts, as not everyone wants to speak in a group chat or offer a PTO to a colleague. Maintain a corporate atmosphere in which no one discriminates against or harasses employees of Russian origin.
Finally, the horror of the widespread destruction and the death of innocent people touches us all. Employers need to understand that employees are people, not just workers.