8 Ways Business Leaders Can Respond to Protest and Unrest


Leaders rise in times of crisis and uncertainty. People look towards leadership for solutions and guidance to their problems. A test of a true leader is how they respond during times of intense difficulty, trouble or danger. Do you step up, speak out, and act? Or do you turn a deaf ear or blind eye due to your personal fears or just the unpopularity of taking a stand for what’s right.

As an HR Leader, it is my responsibility and calling to coach business executives to effectively lead through change and significant events outside of their control. Currently, out nation is in unrest over unwarranted senseless deaths of black Americans by law enforcement. Business leaders are watching the reactions to these events unfold and are paralyzed on how to respond. A close friend and business leader asked me, “What can be done? I don’t like what I see in society and it raises a red flag for me to see my black friends, employees, and colleagues hurting.”

Here was my answer:

  1. Appearance- Be present. Do not be silent. Do not hide behind the headlines and have private, closed door conversations. Do not wait for it to “blow over”, so you can get back to businesses as usual. Now is the time to get in front of your workforce and show true leadership.
  2. Acknowledge- Tell your employees you recognize what is happening in our nation, with its struggling societal relationships and most importantly the fatalaties of Black Americans by law enforcement.
  3. Accept- Have regard for your employees’ emotions and receive them just as they are. Do not try to change how they feel. Do not try to justify, defend, or explain another point of view. Just let your employees feel how they feel.
  4. Attentive- Actively listen to your employees’ emotions, thoughts, and views. Make an effort to hear their heart through their words. Listening is the best form of communication. Lean in and try to understand.
  5. Awareness- Seek out training and education on race relations in this country and its injustices and inequalities. Hear first hand testimonies from black friends, co-workers, and colleagues on their personal experiences with racial profiling and abuse of power from the police. Seek to understand.
  6. Ask- “What can be done? How can I help?” Keep in mind, no one has yet found the answer to this generational problem. However, showing you care and want to make a difference is a great first step in tackling this problem.
  7. Appreciate- Thank your employees for opening up their lives, their emotions, and showing their vulnerability. These hard conversations get to the root of the problem and open up future dialogue and stronger relationships.
  8. Act- Take what you’ve heard and do something. Do not try to change the world over night, but focus on your area of influence. Start with reflection of your own background and beliefs. Then, raise awareness and educate your own household on the impacts of racism. Next, create safe places in your workplace for these facilitated discussions. Provide support counselors. And implement employees’ ideas. Finally, look for community advocacy groups and local government forums to use your voice and brand to make a difference.

Talitha Beverly is the Principal Consultant of HR Strong, a Virtual Human Resource Outsourcing and Consulting firm.