How to talk about Migrant Family Separations at work
This past week, we have been overwhelmed seeing migrant families separated at the border and children sleeping in cages. While many people are thinking about what they can do as individuals, you should also consider how this issue impacts your colleagues at work. Here are three things to consider:
Create space for your staff to talk about what is happening. If a subject is being discussed in the news or social media, then employees are thinking about it at work. Earlier this year, we wrote an op-ed for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Nonprofit Workers Under Stress: How Leaders Can Respond, highlighting that nonprofit leaders should create space for open conversations on issues that may be sensitive or divisive. At our organization, we used time during our weekly staff meeting to check-in on how people are feeling about migrant family separations and Juneteenth. While this only took fifteen minutes in our meeting, it helped staff members realize they could talk about what matters to them at work.
Discuss how your work connects to systems of oppression. It is important to recognize that migrant family separations at the border are part of a broader pattern and history of oppression. For social sector organizations, this is a time to evaluate your work and whether you are actively working to change these systems. At ProInspire, we recently created and participated in a four-day training focused on understanding racial equity at the personal, interpersonal, organizational, and systemic levels. Doing this together is giving us the tools to understand how we need to work differently to change these systems.
Provide employees flexibility to do what they need to do. Organizational cultures that provide employees flexibility in their schedules recognize that people have needs outside of work. From making time for self care, supporting family needs, volunteering, attending protests, or going to therapy, employees who have the ability to address these needs are more likely to be effective in doing their work. At our organization, we have a flexible work schedule and individuals have freedom to adjust their schedules in ways that enables them to best do their work. Organizations with direct service programs may not be able to provide such broad flexibility, but can still look at offering adequate time off, adjusting work hours for evening programs, and encouraging senior leadership to model self care.
If you would like to connect with other people interested in this issue, some ProInspire alumni are planning to gather before the The Family Separation Protest at the White House on June 30th. They will have a meeting space to grab snacks, water, and connect with others. Please indicate interest here so they can send you information.
The ProInspire Team