26 October 2023 |

saying something is better than nothing

By Hebba Youssef

✍🏽 What should I do when terrible things are occurring around the world but my leadership team doesn’t want to address them?

Context: HR in a startup of younger leaders.

📣 Kendyl Skinner, Director of Human Resources at Orange Barrel Media: 

In my experience, while it can be really tough to know WHAT to say in these moments when emotions are high all around, saying nothing is probably the worst thing to do. By saying nothing, you’re letting employees make their own assumptions about the silence and the assumption is often, unfortunately, that the company doesn’t care or isn’t supportive.

I feel like a neutral message to the team to say “we recognize that there are really difficult things happening in the world and we’re here to support you in whatever ways may be needed” can go a really long way. Even better if you can couple it with resources your company offers in the way of mental health, EAPs, etc.

 📣 Katy Smith: 

If, as an organization, there’s discomfort with leaders in addressing or even acknowledging recent events to the company, one way to check-in on folks is through 1:1s.

Depending on company size and what’s already set up for recurring touchpoints, check in with managers and ICs to see how they’re doing! Even a simple “There’s been a lot going on and I’d love to connect with you just to see how you’re doing” can go a LONG way. It never hurts to help encourage managers with their 1:1s, too.

For the LT to consider, are there any needs that can be reasonably met to make it even just a little easier for folks? Can a floating wellness day be offered?

✍🏽 What advice do you have for when employees bring up political and worldly events in our public comms channel (Slack, Teams, etc.) and disagreements arise? 

📣 Jessie Fields, Talent Development & DEI Director at C2FO: 

Disagreements aren’t necessarily a bad thing. If the discourse is healthy and cordial, I’d leave it alone. But if it takes a bad turn, or if you hear feedback that it’s making others uncomfortable, I’d acknowledge it.

  • Consider putting some Slack/Teams “rules of engagement” in place. Align them to your company values and make clear what is and is not tolerated with internal communication systems.
  • Let Slack bots do your dirty work! A Slack bot can provide automated friendly reminders about proper discourse in social channels, which could help HR not always be the bad guys.
  • Ensure employees have a clear process where they can safely lodge concerns or feedback. This way you can keep a pulse on things.
  • Worst case scenario, if something genuinely harmful is said, have a response plan in place. Obviously, you’ll talk to the employee first-hand, but in the Slack world, think about if you would want to respond to the comment or delete it altogether.

 📣 Cassandra Babilya, Career Coach and Head of EEx Strategy at Amazon: 

First, I’d like to just address that employees are humans first, and “political” issues are really just human issues, and our teams feel the impact in direct and indirect ways. We feel what’s going on in the world and we don’t get to just leave it at the office door.

If you can, redirect the conversation to what, if anything, the company can do together to provide support, either to employees through EAP, or to the community through volunteering.

I’ll also add that Jessie’s advice to align responses to company values is spot on! “Here at XYZ  Company, we believe…” I would also refer back to any company zero-tolerance policies against harassment, bullying, etc.