Three Ways to Help AAPI Staff Feel Safe Amid Uptick in Anti-Asian Violence
Anti-Asian violence continues to proliferate, in stark contrast to a month dedicated to celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander history. A DEI expert provides clear examples of how to help AAPI staff feel safe in the workplace.
May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, and amid the many reasons to celebrate, there are sober reminders that prejudice against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), often stoked by fear and ignorance surrounding the pandemic, is on the rise.
On May 11, there was an assault at a hair salon in Dallas’ Koreatown a year after a shooting rampage in Atlanta left six Asian women dead. And, over the past two years, more than 10,000 hate incidents against AAPI people were reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that gathers data on racially motivated attacks related to the pandemic.
“What companies need to understand is that when they’re asking people to come back to the office, [AAPI employees] are scared to commute and take public transportation—or even be outside,” said Farzana Nayani, a diversity, equity, and inclusion specialist and business coach.
Compounding the problem, AAPIs are often viewed as a “model minority” that doesn’t need support in the workplace. “Because of that stereotype, which is false, there is a perception that the Asian American Pacific Islander community is OK, even in the wake of violence that has been inflicted upon the community in the past two years,” Nayani said.
That could mean organizations are overlooking the needs of their AAPI employees. “Managers need to be proactive,” Nayani said. “Just because it’s not being talked about doesn’t mean it’s not still a problem.”
Nayani offers three practical steps managers can take to help their AAPI employees feel safe returning to work.
Resource reminders. The rise in anti-Asian violence means many AAPI employees are affected. For example, an employee of a company Nayani was advising had a relative who was attacked because he is Asian. The group was about to hold a meeting and the woman was so upset she couldn’t come on camera.
The company responded immediately, reminding employees that they could use their sick days for mental health and emotional support. “Making that clear and reminding them about resources like an employee assistance plan can normalize the resource support the organization offers,” she said.
Safety first. Organizations need to ensure physical safety for employees, like making sure no one is left alone working late in the office after hours, or arranging for them to depart in groups. Nayani also recommends having pepper spray on hand for employees.
Stay in the loop. Managers should proactively check on what’s going on in the news to stay abreast of issues, like the rise in anti-Asian violence. “People are not going to be OK coming to work,” Nayani said. “As people managers, we have to be aware that this is happening and ascertain what support we can offer by being open to observing and receiving input.”
Ultimately, organizations need to be more aware of the cultural concerns of their employees and be proactive in meeting their needs. “It’s overdue, it can’t wait anymore, and there’s an urgency,” Nayani said. “These heritage months are a place where the momentum can grow. I’m eager to see these initiatives take off.”
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