This weekend was hurtful and horrible for America.
On Friday, in Charlottesville, Virginia, White Supremacists marched with torches thru the city to the statue of Thomas Jefferson located on the campus of University of Virginia in protest of decisions to remove several monuments of Civil War Confederate Army “heroes”. They chanted racial slurs as they walked. Their march was approved for Saturday but they decided to start early to send a stronger message.
On Saturday, their real march commenced and was met with counter-protesters who didn’t want these people or their views to bring a negative national spotlight to their town. This culminated in one of the supremacists plowing his car into a crowd, killing one person and wounding at least 20 others.
By Sunday, several of the supremacist participants had been identified thru the photos and videos posted on social media. Their names were posted online and shared thousands of time. Their employers were contacted and many of them lost their jobs.
By Monday, more counter protests formed and proceeded in cities all across the US calling for the supremacist to be labeled and prosecuted as a domestic terrorist. In several cities, angry counter protesters vandalized and tore down the Civil War Confederate monuments. One of those cities was Durham, NC which is about 15 minutes away from me.
Meanwhile, 15 minutes in the other direction from me, someone arranged all the mannequins in a department store at the mall so their arms were raised in Nazi salute.
Hurtful and horrible. And hard to work with your normal level of focus after that.
While in the breakroom on Monday, I had an employee ask if we would fire someone for doing the things those people (mostly men — but there were women there too) did in Charlottesville over the weekend or what the people did in Durham on Monday.
My answer? “I’m just glad I don’t have to make those kinds of decisions today.”
As the day went on, the question gnawed at me. I wondered what would happen if our organization was faced with this.
Then I realized that IF will soon give way to WHEN as this country continues to become more and more divided along racial lines.
Like it or not, your employees are likely to participate in protests. They are likely to end up on social media while doing it. It is likely someone who disagrees with them will try to identify them and notify you in hopes of getting them fired. It is a possibility they will get arrested. It is a possibility they will be injured. It is a possibility they will be changed by what they witness.
Your organization had better be prepared.
- Remind employees on your policy surrounding conduct, harassment/discrimination and social media use … Most organizations have policies on all these things and periodic reminders are normal. Do not be threatening or discouraging toward their rights and choices — but remind them to be ethical and responsible in their choices.
- Evaluate your time off policies … Most employers already allow time off for voting. Many allow time off for volunteer work for charitable caused. Some are even allowing time off to participate in political protests. Consider if your organization wants to differentiate this way. Consider if you want to press your employees for more information and documentation surrounding their time off uses.
- Create a procedure for handling reports on your employees … When an anonymous, concerned person sends you a photo or video of your employee involved in conduct that is a violation of your policies, know what your process will be for handling it. Know how you’re going to respond to the reports. Know how you’re going to investigate the issue. Know the range of corrective action you’re going to take.
- Denounce White Supremacy … Yes, that really is necessary in these times. Your organization and its leadership should publicly denounce White Supremacy and separate yourself immediately from any employee, customer, client or vendor who you know participates in such hateful rhetoric and activities. If your policies on conduct and harassment/discrimination are real and true, this shouldn’t be difficult. But it is and it will be. It is difficult and uncomfortable and scary. Do it anyway.
*It will also be difficult, uncomfortable and scary to not take a similar stance on other kinds of protesters. If your policies on equal employment opportunity are real and true, it shouldn’t be. Fairness and equality do not mandate you to accept both. In fact, there are whole government agencies dedicated to making sure both are not accepted. Don’t feel one bit bad for that and do not back off your stance from the fear.
Walking the talk on diversity and inclusion is all fun and games until one of your employees has gone viral for carrying a torch shouting racial slurs while making Nazi hand gestures.
When that happens, your organization’s position on diversity and inclusion are going to get very real, very quickly.
Know what you’re going to do when that day comes before that day comes.
Because it is coming. America is regressing. Don’t let your organization be dragged back with it.