Water cooler chats are no longer encircling lighthearted converses and hearsays. With social media becoming a warzone for present-day social issues, the same are quickly permeating cubicle and meeting room walls. Employees are becoming more and more vocal about their social and political stances and are bringing social issues in the workplace. But can we blame them? Social media has normalized having opinions, views, and open debates on economic, social, and political affairs. And today, workers want to voice their thoughts and are also demanding their organization and leaders to have a stance on social issues.
Employees want to be led by leaders who can raise their opinions beyond the walls of their cubicles. Social media has fostered the idea of “power residing with the entitled ones”, which is why leaders are feeling the heat on the work front. However, discussing social issues in the workplace may not necessarily have a negative impact on the work environment or synergy as long as the organization can create a culture of trust and an amicable setting where all opinions are appreciated.
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Although leaders in the past have barred debates on social issues in the workplace, times have changed, and several companies are reckoning the opposite these days. Leaders are advocating town hall meetings or connecting with the HR teams to conduct surveys to understand their employees’ state of mind owing to the current social issues. The reason being, unwary heated debates on social issues in the workplace can create an unhealthy work environment or groups in cubicles that may eventually impact the work synergy.
HR departments in several organizations are drawing new policies and terms to organize regulated discussions to protect an employee’s interest and prevent the repercussions of debating social issues in the workplace. With discrimination, classism, political prejudices, ageism, etc., being some of the hot-button topics flaming the fires, here are few ways how the HR department can advocate social issues in the workplace with caution.
- Workshop and training sessions: Do not assume your employee’s views on particular hot-button social topics. Discuss one-on-one or in smaller groups if any social issue is hampering their mental health. Also, ask their opinions about current social affairs before organizing workshops and training sessions.
- Employee assistance program: Create an assistance program or system where stressed employees can share their grievances and views. Also, the program can assist employees in holding civilized town hall meetings and debates on hot-button social issues in the workplace to improve amiability in the organization.
- Address crucial social issues: The HR department must train leaders to address significant social concerns with their team and also, how to deal with them without creating disparity among the workforce.
- Introduce socially balanced and responsible policies: Review and eliminate policies that partial towards a particular class, caste, age, color, etc. Establish new protocols with the support of executives and leaders, so these terms are advocated positively from upper to subordinate levels.
Social issues can have severe consequences on an employee’s mental health, especially if they are pigeon-holed or shunned by workers for either having an opinion or being a target of their topics. Discussing social issues in the workplace may still be a debatable topic for several companies who would rather not touch the coal when hot but employees are a part of the community, and community unrest can trigger debates in the workplace. The HR department must indubitably advocate discussing social issues but with protocols. Also, the team must introduce the protocols gradually to create a work environment that is social-balanced, amicable, and transparent in the organization.
- Creating a Safe Space at Work for Discussing Social Justice Topics | SHRM | Lisa Nagele-Piazza | August 21, 2021
- Survey Shows People Want To Discuss Social, Political Issues At Work And Call For Companies To Support Their Views | Forbes | Jack Kelly | March 9, 2021
- How to Discuss Hot-Button Social Issues in the Workplace | Talent Culture | Sofia Hernandez | April 20, 2021
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