Year 2020 was challenging on many fronts. From the pandemic to economic hardships and political unrest, the year was not a bliss. Although we have closed the 2020 chapter, its effects followed us to 2021 with the violent acts of Jan 6th at the US Capitol leaving the nation, and the world, in a state of utter shock.
Since the brutal murder of George Floyd, and unfortunately all those who followed, employees have been observing and judging their employers. Organizations opting not to respond to injustices, or those who responded late, faced a backlash from their employees. Weak statements of support were not well received neither. Since the events of Jan 6th, organizations are pondering on the appropriate actions to take henceforth.
Evidently, organizations can no longer afford to ignore the impact of societal factors on employee wellbeing. What happens to your employees outside the workplace impacts their state of mind and consequently their performance.
Below, I offer some thoughts to help leaders in time of crisis:
1. Formal Statement or Not
The decision to issue a formal statement is up to the organization’s leadership. Whatever actions leadership decide to take, irrespective of political views, must be communicated clearly and objectively linking them to the organization’s brand.
Actions organizations undertake during time of crisis need to be reinforced over time rather than executed once in a timespan. Whatever lessons learned, and there will be lessons from every crisis, should be analyzed to ensure the organization enhances their response to future challenges. Remember, nothing is written in stone.
2. Policies Revamped
This might be a good time to revamp existing policies, procedures and code-of-conduct to ensure validity for the present day as well as the future. Policies must be frequently revised for compliance with local and State laws.
Such policies must be supported with consequences, for good behavior as well as bad behavior, and applied consistently throughout the organization. Remember Freedom of Speech does not prevent employers from disciplining their employees for misconducts defined by the organization’s policies.
3. Thorough and Fair Investigation
Reported incidents of discrimination, bullying, harassment, unethical behavior, bias or criminal conduct need to be thoroughly investigated and documented regardless of the place and time of reported conduct. This should include conduct off work premises and outside work hours.
Although it is impossible to please every employee, organizations have the obligation to protect all its employees as well as its brand. It is the legacy of their leadership.