Most employers have just begun returning to some degree of normalcy after navigating through a pandemic, an economic downturn, and frayed emotions, only to now be faced with nationwide social unrest as well.  The murder of George Floyd last week set off earnest emotions from people across America and the world. However, it is in the processing of those feelings by each individual that determines whether the behavior that follows the incident will be just or unjust.  This same principle may apply in your workplace in the future.

What employees participate in outside of the workplace is usually revealed in the workplace, whether it be good or bad.   The same applies to activities inside the workplace.  One great thing we saw this week was construction workers protecting and then retaking their jobsite in San Jose from protestors.  Hopefully their employers will recognize them for “taking ownership” of the site and protecting the property entrusted to them irrespective of their views on the merits or demerits of the protests.

Four years ago, the eSkill published a blog article by HR professional Chris Fields entitled “How to Manage Civil Unrest and Protests in the Workplace”

Mr. Fields provides 4 tips for the workplace on this topic, which are shared here below.

4 Ways to Manage Civil Unrest, Politics, and Protests at Work

Examine and update your policies. If you don’t have a policy on this, then create one. Be sure your policy starts with a statement of respect and appreciation of diversity, and then reiterate the importance of mutual respect, empathy, and compassion. Then, outline the policy which should in plain language detail the company’s stance on highly sensitive issues and expected behavior for all employees.

Be tough but fair. Every workforce has potential for unrest–don’t think it won’t happen to you. Be prepared by making it clear that bullying, name calling, threats, intimidation, and personal conflicts will not be tolerated. Remember your Title VII of the Civil Rights Act training – know your protected classes and do not allow anyone to violate them on your watch.

Interact with your employees (pay attention). When managers and directors walk through the doors and head straight for their offices, avoiding contact with employees, they miss opportunities to humanize themselves with their workforce. When your employees see you as more than the boss, they are more likely to share with you what’s going on in their lives and in your organization.

Mind your manners. Remember when your parents said you should never discuss sex, politics, and religion in polite conversation? When reminding employees of proper workplace etiquette, be sure to let them know that although they have Freedom of Speech, their words do have consequences, and this freedom does not give them the right to say whatever they want whenever they want, especially if it’s offensive, discriminatory, threatening, hateful, or even just insensitive.

Chris Fields provides some good advice.  If you as an employer or employee lead the way in living it out, you will be setting the example and defining and leading positive culture in your workplace.

If your company is experiencing challenges associated with the civil unrest in our country, and you need advice on how to deescalate a situation, or train your team, or officiate your policies, you can call Jorge Rivero at HR on Demand.  Rivero and his team have specialists on hand to assist you.

What happened in Minneapolis was wrong.  How some people are using that incident to hurt more people and destroy businesses and livelihoods is likewise wrong.  We all know the old adage, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”.

If you employ or are employed by someone who cannot differentiate the difference between a protest and riots don’t count on that person watching out for you, your company or others on your team if you chose to stay associated with them.  They are more concerned with their feelings than how it affects anyone else.

When Chris Fields wrote the article for eSkill four years ago, he referred to isolated incidents in various cities and the generational differences in the workplace.  This past week, we saw how social media, mainstream media, and the climate and technology of today have brought violence to every major city in America in record time.  Preparation and leadership are determining which areas are more peaceful than others.

Through preparation and leadership, you can also be ready for what you might least expect to happen to you.  Discrimination may be the furthest thing from your heart and mind, but if someone else is feeling mistreated, then it is only your policies that give you any form of guidelines for common ground.

To One Nation Under God, with Liberty and Justice for All,

Suzanne Breistol

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