Supporting Your Staff in a Scary World

How have you, leaders, been supporting your staff through the last few weeks and months?  If your workplace is anything like the ones I'm familiar with, employees are scared, angry, and feeling vulnerable about the actions of the new administration in Washington, D.C.  Whether we're all in agreement or not, it's a bad idea for leadership at your organization to ignore the world outside your door.

At my full-time gig, we've been sending out messages of support through formal and informal channels, by allowing free political chatter in the hallways and by hosting facilitated discussions around social justice issues.  This works here because, as a large non-profit in a left-leaning city, we're comfortable taking a stand against recent actions on immigration, cabinet confirmations, and Twitter disasters.

Large corporations have run the gamut from actively supporting the new administration to making statements like the one Columbia Sportswear's leadership sent to staff:

"We are here because the United States was open and tolerant enough to let us in. Both our family and our business were encouraged to engage with the world...In a global company, most of us are used to working with people who may see the world a little differently than we do. In fact, one of the most enjoyable parts of working at a global company like Columbia Sportswear Company is that we get to work with individuals from over 100 countries who have unique perspectives, different religious beliefs and rich ethnic backgrounds. Any of our team members can easily end up working closely with a colleague or customer many time zones away, bridging cultural and language differences to find solutions to reach a common goal. This is how we grow as individuals and make progress together. It is how we learn that we, as humans, have far more similarities than differences, and that whatever differences we may have are not to be feared but celebrated."

Traditional HR rules tell us that politics should be avoided in the workplace, and it's possible your company benefits from rules prohibiting political discussions.  Certainly, heated arguments and name-calling have no place around the water cooler.  But remember: employees are always people first, employees second.  You won't have good employees if you push their humanity aside.  

So, how are you reaching out?