I’m a serious football fan (go Broncos) and enjoy a good-hearted rivalry with a number of friends about their teams. But when the news broke about Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs, rivalries were set aside – among friends and among teams – to try and process the tragic turn of events.
The Chiefs decided, with the League and others, that playing today’s game would help everyone involved to deal with the situation. There has been some controversy surrounding the decision, with strong supporters on both sides. All I know is that I cannot imagine how Coach Romeo Crennel is functioning today, having witnessed one of his players commit suicide and learning that same person had just murdered his girlfriend and mother of his child.
As a leader, it’s got to be hard to know what’s the best thing to do after a tragedy occurs. Do you keep routine? Do you allow some people to not perform their duties? There are several excellent articles and resources available to employers who experience workplace tragedies (like this one). A few of my own thoughts:
Be flexible: When 9/11 happened, the owner of our small company was out of state and no one knew what to do. We had someone personally impacted (a sibling worked at the Pentagon – thankfully uninjured) and others were just trying to figure out if anyone they knew was flying that day. The owner kept the office open, but let people go home if they needed to. This allowed everyone to handle the situation in a way that worked for them.
Offer support: All articles on workplace violence stress the need for the availability of professional mental health support. Whether you have an EAP(employee assistance program) or need to reach out to a local agency, make sure those affected have access to help, both immediately after the incident and down the road. Reaction times vary, and shock may prevent people from processing the incident until weeks or months later.
Listen: I was student teaching when Columbine happened and was across the street when helicopters and police descended on the high school. I had requested Columbine as my placement but was at a nearby high school instead. Many of my students had friends impacted by the shootings, as were fellow teachers. I was so impressed by teachers and leaders who understood the best thing they could do to help their students and coworkers was to simply be there to listen when needed.
Hopefully, you will never have to experience what the Chiefs are going through today. Whether or not you agree with the decision to play, it’s important to respect the choice and hope it helps those impacted to feel like they’re doing something. And for the only time this year, I say…Go, Chiefs.