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trauma informed workplace

Converstation Guide

Consider the following recommendations and guidelines for faciliting conversations after the February 13th campus incident. 

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  • Check in with self, reflect on current state and ensure needs are met.
  • Consider the tone and presence you intend to bring to the conversation.
  • Identify a loose plan for approaching the conversation. Suggestions are detailed below. Some may find it useful to prepare by rehearsing difficult conversations.
  • Have supportive resources readily available for employees who may need them.
  • Start by welcoming others and introducing yourself. If you have not met someone before, ask for name, pronouns, role, etc. If more than one person is present, make sure they introduce themselves to others in the space.
  • Thank individuals for attending and acknowledging the difficulty of the incident. 
  • Establish first and foremost that these conversations are intended as a space for employees to come together and offer mutual support. 
  • Encourage employees to listen to and show understanding for each other’s positions before jumping in with their perspectives. 
  • Introduction suggestion
    • “The goal of this conversation is to provide everyone an opportunity to share their immediate thoughts and feelings the incident has raised. As fellow Spartans, we would like to know how we can best support you and your peers as well as we can, and continue our commitment to foster community and inclusion at MSU”
  • Be mindful of shared values and guide the conversation to connect back to these values.
  • It also may be helpful to mention that the goal of the space is dialogue, “Dialogue is about shared inquiry, a way of thinking and reflecting together.”
  • Note that individuals will approach this conversation from varied emotional places and that all expressions of emotions are welcomed.
  • Lastly, some might have clear visions of what the University should be doing as action steps. It is suggested to allow space for some of those ideas but also remind everyone of the intended goal.
  • Always require mutual respect.
  • ROPES is a suggested tool when having conversations with several people, especially if they are not an intact team or crew. 
    • R=Respect
    • O=Open Mindedness
    • P=Participation/pass (Step Up/Step Back)
    • E=Experiment with new ideas
    • S=Sensitivity/Safety 
  • Offer known or publicized facts of the incident. It’s often helpful to do this as a timeline, chronological order. A timeline of events has been detailed here
  • It’s important to relay that some information requested may not be given due to campus policy and privacy laws. Acknowledge how that might be limiting and frustrating.
  • Lastly, it may be helpful to provide an overview of MSU Alert processes: The Michigan State University Police Department is responsible for developing and distributing Timely Warning and Emergency Notification messages. These messages are intended to warn the community about certain crimes and notify it of potentially dangerous situations on or near campus. These messages inform community members about incidents that may pose an ongoing threat and provide information to promote safety and prevent similar crimes.
  • Allow individuals space to share immediate feelings, reactions and thoughts. Ask what immediate needs come to mind.
  • Ask individuals what they think is needed to move the campus forward. Frame this conversation segment not only on what the campus can collectively do but also on what they can offer individually to move us forward as a community.
  • A few options based on of the conversation dynamic:
    • One word check in to capture how they are
    • One thing they are willing to continue to support inclusivity and fostering community at MSU
    • Remind participants of the available resources and expressly encourage their use. 


Additional Resources/References

Adapted from a draft by Dre Domingue, Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity & Inclusion at Davidson College, November 2018. 

Workplace Mental Health, A Conversation Guide for Managers, Health Action Alliance 

Supporting Employee Mental Health After Mass Shootings, Health Action Alliance


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