Is there a role for the workplace to implement and engage a little dialog with their employees after 8/12/17 in Charlottesville, Virginia? Well I sure hope they do and now is the time. Things are changing daily in the workplace and as well as our communities. We witnessed what happened in Charlottesville and what is still going on across the United States. Some of us where there and others were watching it via the news media. We all feel it. There are individuals who took a stance to denounced the ugliness and hate, which is not only in Charlottesville, but in other communities across the nation. It has sent shock waves throughout the world and the emotions are running high. We have seen the local communities, businesses as well as local governments step up and lead the charge, as they should. There are some roots to all of this ugliness with connections to plain old bullying. It needs to be dealt with. People with opposing views sometimes can not control there tension and get out of control.
So I ask you – Employers what is your role when something occurs like it did in Charlottesville in your area. Yes, we all have free speech, but when it turns into violence, what do you need to do? What’s your responsibility? Do you have any responsibility? These are things you and your CEOs and Board of Directors need to discuss. We know the hate mongers are amongst us. They look and act just like me and you. Beware! They are everywhere and it affects each and every one of us. The CEO of the nonprofit I work for put out a letter to the employees and to the community. Other organizations did the same thing, such as the Charlottesville Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Center for Nonprofit Excellence organization (https://www.thecne.org) and more. it was amazing to see the organiztions coming together and stating their views in the public on the current situation. (http://piedmonthousingalliance.org/letter-ceo-following-august-12-alt-right-rally-charlottesville/) Does your organization has any policies on this type of behavior i.e.; rallies, etc., or even harassment type activities? What about conflict resolution or mediation? Are you covered to handle these situations if they arise at your workplace? Bullying can begin at various levels within an organization and be dressed in a disguise. Bullying likes and feeds off of chaos!
So one suggestion is to educate your organization on what bullying in the workplace is, along with the impacts and costs to your organization. Organizations need to know how to handle crisis and violence when it is near or in our workplaces. We know there is not a federal law in place to combat the horrific act of bullying in the workplace. So organizations will have to be prepared to respond to these type of issues in case they come into your hometown. I would like to suggest the following steps to be considered and hope it gives organizations a starting point-and gets people to the table for some good old fashion discussions.
- Acknowledge that this could happen in your area. Your town might be the next Charlottesville and there could be impacts to your employees and your organization. Identify what those impacts could be and how it might affect your organization.
- Take your organization’s temperature-what are you hearing, feeling, and seeing? Are the employees displaying any fears, do you see an increase in time off or not showing up to work. Do you have a known bully feeding off of what is happening in the media? What is the water cooler chit-chat? Has production slowed down? Do any of the employees have relatives or connections to Charlottesville or other areas where the community is in a crisis mode?
- Gather the leaders of your organization – begin the conversation-ask yourselves what is your responsibilities and liabilities? How can you help each other though this? Decide who else needs to be at the table. Maybe local law enforcement and your organization’s attorney should have a seat. Ensure that the leaders/department heads are all in agreement and will all deliver the same message and support. If not, there should be another conversation planned.
- Have your Human Resources Director (HR) at the table-they have knowledge on various employee assistance programs and more. Also, they are very capable to conduct some research which you might need to aid in some decision-making. HR also can help with developing a plan of action. They can take the lead on the communication activities with the employees.
- Set some Goals of what you expect to achieve. Three and no more than five are more than enough. It’s okay if it is only one goal. Will it solve an issue? But make a goal, share what the goal is and how you expect to achieve it. This might involve policy changes. An example would be communicating a new policy of a zero tolerance of bullying, harassment, or supporting any form of White Supremacy type activities. If a new policy will be developed make sure you address if any employees are involved in various ways, and if their job would be in jeopardy.
- Make a Plan. How you will address the issues? Look and have dialog with other communities who are also dealing with the same issues or simply wanting to communicate some positive information and support. Within the plan its a good idea to include a timeline and who is going to do what within your organization. Will you have the CEO or each department head to address the issues individually or as a group. I would suggest and hope it is the organization as a whole. Make sure you have a “check in” period to see how it is going and have something in place to measure your success. Simply conducting a survey might be all you need.
- Make a decision on how you will communicate the information-one or two meetings or more. You will have to agree on how you will agree or disagree by consensus or majority. Make sure it is explained that its okay to disagree and be able to build a better consensus. Discuss how will it be communicated to not only to the employees but to the community they are in and serve. It should state the organization’s position. Also what mode of commuication will it be in; writing via a letter, blog, postings of signs/displays. Don’t discount the use of social media also as a form of communication. You could consider setting up “listening posts” in designated areas at your organization or put out a podcast for employees. You want to have the door open and the table set to just allow employees to talk and share their feelings and positions. The recent activities in Charlottesville are very emotional and can have deep impacts to mental health of individuals and it will impact our ability to do our jobs.
- Offer employee assistance if you currently don’t have one in place people need to talk these type of things out. Is there counselors available in your community to assist your organization? You also want to ensure the employees this will be a safe place to share their feelings without judgement or the threat of losing their jobs. Actions will get people in trouble quicker than their thoughts.
Here are some links to assist with gathering information:
It is recommended to get educated on bullying in the workplace or reading about violence in the workplace. There are numerous studies available on the Internet or from University site. I am including my study on the perceptions of bullying in the workplace which provides a background and the perceptions of bullying in the workplace from witnesses view : https://search.proquest.com/openview/97f1f0427dee4e3ac6a055725847ebf9/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
Here is an event that is planned via live streaming addressing bullying in the workplace, including the violence and harassment. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/surviving-and-thriving-tools-to-eliminate-incivility-workplace-bullying-harassment-violence-and-tickets-36590698765
This article was recently in the local news. The employer recognized one of its employees at the Charlottesville rally and they terminated the employment: http://www.nbc12.com/story/36134125/ridgeville-man-pictured-next-to-charlottesville-murder-suspect-reportedly-facing-firing?utm_content=bufferfe0f7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Visit the Society of Human Resources. https://shrm.org They have numerous articles and studies available which can offer program suggestions to aid in your decision-making.
Healthy Working Lives: http://www.healthyworkinglives.com/advice/Legislation-and-policy/employee-issues/violence-aggression
Workplace bullying: http://www.workplacebullying.org
If you have questions or other suggestions on how your organization has or will addressed anything like this, please feel free to share.
Thank you for reading!