Kavanaugh-Ford Hearings, and Your Local Gov Workplace

Posted on October 3, 2018


Thoughtful and kind

Morning Buzz by Kirsten Wyatt


This Morning Buzz has two parts – the first is about office considerations while watching/ reading/ discussing the Supreme Court nominee (Kavanaugh) and witness (Ford) testimony and coverage, and the second is about the resources and kindness you can provide to your staff and colleagues during this challenging time in our country.

1. Office Considerations – aka Be Thoughtful

I was at a local government conference last Thursday (the day of Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford’s testimony about Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s response) and the local cable provider was an event sponsor and had the testimony and response on a big screen TV at their booth, with the sound up. As people cruised the vendor hall, they stopped to watch the TV.

(And by “people” I mean older white men, and by “stopped” I mean lingered, discussed and joked. I had a good vantage point to see the interactions with the booth.)

I’m in several non-profit executive director Facebook groups where (like the ELGL members-only group) members have frank and honest discussions about workplace considerations.  EDs were posting in the days leading up to the hearing about the event, how it impacts assault survivors, and what workplace accommodations or concerns they should take.

Please keep in mind that the general demographic in the non-profit executive directors groups tends to be female and progressive. There was a lot of thoughtfulness in the discussions, and the general consensus was that broadcasting the coverage and commentary shouldn’t be done unless there was an explicit conversation with all staff about how that coverage and commentary might trigger staff emotions about sexual assault. The prevailing plan was for people to watch the coverage and commentary at their desks with earphones, unless a conversation was had to show it on a main screen.

So, flash forward to the local government conference where the coverage and commentary was on the big screen, in full volume, in a crowded vendor hall. I try to operate from a position of “assume good intent,” and so my takeaway (after being admittedly Tweet-frustrated) is this: let’s ensure that local gov has the same discussion that we had in the non-profit executive director group. That discussion was important and the learnings from that would be well-heeded in the mainstream local government world.

Now, I know that most local governments aren’t sitting around watching TVs all day (but on big news days, maybe?). But please consider – what’s on in your break rooms? What effect might this have on sexual assault survivors and their advocates on your staff? A little thoughtfulness goes a long way.

And this concept doesn’t just apply to the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings – at different times, when national events are so mainstream and dominating the news cycle, how are you approaching the effect of the coverage and commentary on your workplace, especially when the topic is potentially triggering to survivors and their allies?

2. Resources & Listening – aka Be Kind

A local gov manager I know took her staff out to lunch, wine, and conversation the day after the 2016 presidential election. She then gave her staff the afternoon off to process their emotions.

Another local gov manager I know set up a conversation group and resource center for her staff after the Orlando nightclub shootings so staff had a safe place to process their emotions about this attack on the LGBTQ community.

I mention these examples because they illustrate how the very best local gov managers adapt and react to their staff’s needs, and also world events that can make coming into work difficult to bear.  At the core of both of these stories, is kindness. You don’t have to agree or understand every aspect of your employee’s emotions about the Kavanaugh-Ford hearings, but you do have to be kind.

We are in challenging times. We need to offer our staff our kindness – as well as resources, space, and conversation right now to get through their workdays.

Here’s a post that I found impactful, and you might too:

It really happened and we need to heal from it

Reading this post can shed some light on what your staff might be dealing with right now, and it also includes some resources and additional reading that can be useful.

What other resources do you need to manage people during this time? Reply to the comments or DM me on Twitter and I can add to this post.

I’m the co-founder and executive director of ELGL. I love my job. Other things I love: local government, my family, my dog Michael Jordan, sandwiches, naps, books, and skee-ball.

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