After observing what has happened over the last few days since the death of George Floyd, the latest victim of police brutality against African Americans, I knew I wanted to say something. It’s difficult to do without appearing to be pandering or virtue signaling. When discussing it with my leadership team, we felt the best place to start was with our African-American colleagues.

They’ve been anxious, heartbreaking conversations, hearing what they go through on a daily basis. We heard stories of what these highly respected and brilliant people have to endure every day simply because of the color of their skin. I was honestly unaware, never imagining the level of systemic racism they’ve lived with their entire lives. While Highfive is a very inclusive workplace, I realized that we have room for improvement.

So, yes, we are incredibly saddened and mournful for the loss of life within the Floyd family and so many others. We’re also deeply saddened for the persistent pain and racial injustices with which our colleagues and the entire black community in the US have endured for far too long. But that’s not enough. We have to start listening to our employees, our neighbors, and our clients of color, learning about the abuse they live with every day. We must educate ourselves and learn more about the pain we cause, even inadvertently, in both our words and actions which may seem innocuous to us. Enough is enough. We need to change.

Our industry has been talking a lot lately about what the future of work looks like. I’m here to tell you that the future of work won’t come from innovative business communication and collaboration tools we roll out tomorrow. The future of work starts today. It starts by listening with compassionate, empathetic open minds and hearts to our African-American colleagues and peers who have been disenfranchised far too long. Let’s facilitate dialogue with local police, government officials, and our communities to educate ourselves on how to eliminate systemic racism.

We encourage you to visit blacklivesmatters.carrd.co for a list of useful resources and links to donate to local non-profits and businesses. Highfive will be making a donation, plus we’ve provided free services to many non-profits to help facilitate conversations in the community. I call on our friends at Avaya, Cisco, Slack, Zoom, and others to offer your communication services to local communities and start a new and honest dialogue.

As a CEO, one of the most important pieces of advice I ever received was: “Know what you don’t know.” On the topic of systemic racism, it turns out there’s a lot for me to learn.

Joe Manuele,
CEO, Highfive