Mitigating Threats of Disruptive Employee Behavior
During The Current Political Season

bob feldman speaking in front of people

The threat of disruptive employee behavior and even workplace violence is a major C-suite concern during this political campaign year. How pronounced is this issue and what can companies do to pre-emptively reduce the risks associated with it?

That was the concern and the interest of the Conference Board’s Chief Legal Officers Council which invited Bob Feldman and Russ Yarrow of the Dialogue Project to attend and participate in one of the Council’s semi-annual conferences.

“We’re well aware that chief communications officers and chief human resource officers are quite concerned about workplace civility, especially during the current election cycle,” said Feldman, founder of the Dialogue Project. “But we were struck by how significant a priority it also is for general counsels.  We were pleased we were engaged pre-emptively by forward-looking companies who want to assure civility and a productive work environment.”

Talking with about 55 chief legal officers, Feldman started the session by framing the problem, underscoring its severity, and offering perspectives and mini-case examples of work being done by such companies as Southwest Airlines, Allstate, General Mills, Pfizer and KPMG.

He then underscored the importance of having the basics covered:

  • Update corporate policies and guidelines;
  • Implement full-scale training;
  • Be sure employees understand and embrace your company’s guidelines and values;
  • Do scenario planning;
  • Hire firms to track issues impacting your company and your brands so you have an early-warning system in place that could trigger controversy;
  • Engage your employees in appreciating and embracing your corporate values;
  • Promote civic engagement like voting;
  • Implement training on dialogue policies;
  • Be sure your employees know that you won’t speak out on every major social issue, and that they understand your framework for making those decisions.

Russ Yarrow presenting in front of people

Following Feldman’s talk and a robust conversation with the attorneys, Russ Yarrow, senior advisor to the Dialogue Project, facilitated an hour-long “what would you do” workshop based on four hypothetical scenarios:

Scenario 1: Reading the Signs

How does a company respond to a rash of “red-flag” language on its Slack channels while trying to implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Program?

Scenario 2: When Private Posts Go Public

A Russian hack of Facebook turns millions of private posts public, leading to social disruption that creeps into the workplace. How does your company react?

Scenario 3: “Silence=Death”

Employees of a business consultancy want the company to take a stand on the Israeli-Hamas conflict and now internal disputes are affecting employee performance. How should the company respond?

Scenario 4: Unintended Consequences

A company’s program to increase civic literacy among its employees backfires when workers at the inaugural event get into a shouting match over this year’s election. What should the company do?

These kinds of conversations are essential across all corporations in all industry sectors of companies of all size.  The process, Yarrow says, is almost as important as the policies and guidelines that emerge. Success comes from employee understanding, support and advocacy.