Why Executive Communications and Workplace Culture Need to Evolve in 2017

By now, we should all be well aware of the wave of threats and destruction directed towards the Jewish community in recent months. As debates continue about how much attention should be given to this issue at the Presidential level, it is worth asking ourselves about how social matters should be treated in the workplace.

The idea that all matters with a political connection should be left at the front door is antiquated and is having a negative impact on workplace culture. Ask anyone with a direct connection to Aleppo, the “Muslim Ban,” or Black Lives Matter how these issues were acknowledged at work and traces of what I am referring to will emerge.

It is difficult to carry on with business as usual, while you wonder if you will be injured in an attack while honoring your religious beliefs, if your parents will be deported, or if you will make it safely to your new job.

As office floor plans have become increasingly more open, water cooler conversations have moved into the shadows — in elevators, in conference rooms and online. Many employees struggle to see work is a safe place to discuss and explore these issues out in the open, and as a result, the streams of conversation are endless on Slack and Jabber, in direct messages and via group texts. The problem with this behavior is that it is implied [and accepted] that employees should only be one slice of themselves as they navigate the work day.

Whether or not executives purposefully set this tone within companies, they reinforce it by being silent on societal issues when they arise. In addition to creating value for owners and shareholders, executives have a responsibility to foster inclusive workplace cultures that are empathetic to societal issues that employees are connected to. Moreover, there is an opportunity within each of these issues to deepen relationships with employees and solidify stakeholder relationships by directing energy towards acknowledging and solving some of society’s most urgent issues.

Demonstrating that senior leaders care enough to dedicate company time and resources to an issue is a net positive. If you doubt this point, ask the employees at Morgan Stanley how they felt about the conversations about race and society. Talk to the stakeholders connected to Danby about CEO Jim Estill’s efforts to support Syrian refugees.

The fact is that there is something we all can be doing to improve society directly via our businesses or alongside our peers. The purpose is apparent, if we are willing to have the conversation about getting started, and it will pay dividends in terms of employee engagement and societal impact if the focus is on creating a sustaining effort.

Give it a shot!

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