I don’t believe companies should always take a stance on political views. Taking a stance on political views has the potential to create division among your employees and lose customers. However, employee activism is on the rise.
“Nearly four in 10 employees (38 percent) report that they have spoken up to support or criticize their employers’ actions over a controversial issue that affects society.”Weber Shandwick
My concern with current employee activism is the poor execution of good intentions.
For example, employees want companies who are transparent and do good. Yet when employees don’t agree with company choices they are more likely to share confidential internal memos and recordings on social media or protest. These actions create distrust, discourage transparency, and undermine relationships between leadership and peers.
Forcing a company to take a political stance on hot topics intentionally and unintentionally silences peers who don’t agree. Thus creating the potential for a hostile environment and harassment.
Teams should not have to worry about political conversations at work which can have a negative impact on morale and performance. In addition, the political climate changes quickly which adds unnecessary stress.
The Role of the Company
I believe companies have a responsibility to do right by their employees and communities. This starts with a well-defined mission statement and values.
- What is your company trying to accomplish, how, and for who?
- What are your company values?
- How are those company values implemented and exhibited in everyday work?
Student activists are coming into our workforce, and they are ready and prepared to speak their minds and to stand up for their values and beliefs,” she said. “That’s why I believe this whole movement is just going to continue to grow.”Boston Globe
With student activists coming into the workforce your company has an additional responsibility to reinforce company values.
- As an employer does your company clearly define it’s values on your website?
- Are they discussed during the hiring process?
- Are they part of company and employee performance plans?
Review and assess the relationship of your company’s work with clients, contractors, employees, Industry, vendors, and the community at large.
- Who does your business impact and how?
- What is the long term impact of your business?
- What are some unintended effects of your work?
The best companies create a healthy culture with shared values where everyone can learn from each other. A culture where diversity in backgrounds, experiences, and views is celebrated allows growth and innovation to happen.
The Role of Employee Activists
In today’s social and political climate it is easy to be triggered by emotionally charged headlines. Many times there is more to the story than what is shared. The facts may not be clear and the truth is usually somewhere in the middle.
What you determine to be good, just, and fair may look different to a peer or someone else. The more you know the better choices you can make. Here are several things to keep in mind.
- Why do you believe in your stance? What concrete resources support your view?
- What are the opposing viewpoints? What do they believe their action is the right one? What concrete resources support their view?
- Does taking action against someone or something have an unintended negative impact on someone else? Emotions can cloud your judgement. When it is clouded your ability to see further past the moment is limited and we can unintentionally hurt others in an effort to do good.
- If you take action are you prepared to lose your job directly or indirectly? Meaning even if you aren’t fired what happens if the company loses money. Money that impacts the payroll budget.
Companies have to remain profitable which means making a lot of decisions that aren’t always simple or easy. How well a company does financially impacts your compensation and benefits and vendor contracts.
If you want your company to take a specific action, how do you present your argument in a way that aligns with company mission and values? How will the company, your peers, clients, and community benefit from your proposed course of action? You will see better results when you have a team mentality instead of “us vs. them”.Taking a team approach earns you more respect and long term benefits than forcing someone’s hand. Click To Tweet
The Role of Leaders
As a leader, your responsibility is to make decisions for the well-being of the entire business including employees. This means you make decisions for the long-term regardless of today’s pressure. It means you make hard choices which others won’t always like, support, or understand.
You must also be open to listening and learning the issues your team is passionate about to see how they align with the company mission and values. Whether you decide to take a political stance or not here are questions to keep in mind.
- Why are you taking a public stance? How will you communicate your stance? How will you implement your stance? Are your actions congruent? Do your company actions and relationships through the entire operations and supply chain support your stance?
- What are the positive effects of taking a stance? What new collaborations are possible? What new relationships should be developed?
- What are the negative effects of taking a stance, unintentional and intentional? How will you respond to clients, contractors, vendors, employees? Could this be seen as an attempt to jump on the bandwagon and capitalize on a marketing or sales opportunity?How much money are you willing to lose? What relationships are you willing to walk away from?
Part of making hard choices is communicating them well to your team. This includes sharing what choice was made, why it was made vs other options, how it will impact them, and what the next step will include.
- Have your team be a part of the conversation instead of talking at them.
- Encourage their questions.
- Take time to address their concerns and fears. You may not be able to provide as detailed answers as they would like, however still make a valid effort.
Then include them in the process of moving forward by identifying each team member’s specific role. This encourages them to take ownership as the team moves forward together.
Continue to keep the lines of communication open with regular 1:1 meetings and team meetings. It is important to address any concerns head on.
TIP: Make sure you are listening on social media and forums to see what is being said outside of the office. You can also create a Google alert for your company.
As an individual, there are issues I am passionate about. When I was younger I was very vocal about them, but as I’ve learned more my views have matured.
I understand my views are not the same as others, but I can learn from differing views.
I realize people are nuanced. They have different life experiences and circumstances which contribute to their beliefs and opinions.
I won’t agree with anyone on everything. However, I’m open to remaining curious and learning.
I can’t change anyone’s mind, but I can lead through my actions and create a positive impact.