By Jean Roque, President + Founder of Trüpp
When we experience cultural unrest, the resulting stress and tension inevitably impact the workplace. Whether related to the political climate, a pandemic, an injustice, protests, violence, or polarity that grips the community, they all add layers of stress, depression, and anxiety that our team experiences in one way or another. Many may struggle with how to process it personally, how to be part of the solution, and how to contribute to the healing of our country or those around us. Regardless of where employees fall on the spectrum, maintaining a workplace rooted in inclusion can be difficult in an environment where emotions and convictions run deep. Here are some helpful ways to foster a respectful and welcoming work environment when upheaval threatens to disrupt the workplace.
Address the ‘Elephant’
It’s in the room, so why make it more uncomfortable than it needs to be? Rather than allowing emotionally charged topics to be swept under the rug, take initiative by scheduling time for facilitated discussions. These discussions should focus on how issues may be impacting individuals, the work environment, or interactions with clients, vendors, and partners, and not the merit of various beliefs.
If you identify an issue that is impacting your employees, equip them with how to address that issue effectively. On your own or with expert assistance, provide a training session specifically focused on engendering a level of sensitivity and awareness. If facilitated properly, your employees will feel safe to discuss real-world situations and develop strategies for maintaining healthy boundaries.
Offering employees additional resources such as telehealth options can provide additional support through difficult times.
Hold People Accountable
Ensure employees are held accountable for maintaining healthy boundaries. If an employee crosses one of those boundaries, facilitate an honest and non-judgmental conversation with them about how their behaviors, not their opinions, need to change.
Focus on Values
Choose to embrace company values that encourage positive, respectful, and inclusive behavior amongst its employees, rather than focusing on policy enforcement. Leaders and frontline managers are key in setting the example for living out these behaviors and redirecting employee actions and conversations to align with company values.
As the employer, this is a perfect opportunity to structure events (new product launch, employee volunteer day) where employees work together to achieve a shared goal. By emphasizing common goals and creating activities where they can be celebrated, you’re encouraging employees to value their diversity rather than see it as something that sets them apart.
Keep in mind that not everyone processes things the same nor shares the same views. Remind employees to be mindful and keep conversations with coworkers to topics that are politically and socially neutral. However, encourage employees to reach out to their manager if they need additional assistance, someone to talk to, or have concerns.
Everyone has their own experiences, thoughts, feelings, ideals, and identity they validly embrace. By recognizing that these differences can contribute to real or perceived bias, discrimination, or disrespect in our employees’ lives or in our workplace, you are supporting a work environment that is more tolerant, appreciative of diversity, and genuinely inclusive.
As a business leader, you may have employees who are shocked, fearful, and depressed after such events. While you may empathize with team members; it is important to recognize that we are all affected in different ways. Ensuring that you create an environment where a diverse population of employees is respected, valued, and included will always be good for business.