Managing in Times of Social Unrest

Social injustices, civil rights and discrimination issues affect all employers and employees across the country. Numerous recent events have led to unrest, which has permeated all areas of society, including the workplace.

During these times, employees may be experiencing poor mental health and low engagement. To support employees as effectively as possible, promote employee safety and prevent workplace conflict, employers are faced with the challenge of how to effectively manage employees during these times of social unrest.

“Social unrest” is a broad term that is typically used to describe situations in which a group of people come together in the form of a protest, strike or riot to effect change about an issue. These gatherings are often called in response to things like social and racial injustices, politics and discrimination. However, in some cases, these peaceful gatherings can escalate and spiral out of control.


Social Unrest and the Workplace

Social unrest can affect employees in many different ways and will affect each employee differently. It may be difficult for some to focus solely on work. For example, they may be experiencing many different emotions due to the social unrest, resulting in low engagement and difficulty focusing. The emotional stress some employees may be experiencing can have negative effects on their work, their personal lives and their work relationships.

Others may be looking to your leadership to see how they will respond to social unrest. For example, employees may be looking to see whether your organization will be making policy changes to address the social unrest or how you will be supporting employees during these times.

In some cases, your business may be located in an area that’s experiencing social unrest. As such, you may have concerns for the safety of your business and your employees. First and foremost, make sure you stay informed via local authorities, news outlets and social media about potential events or issues that could lead to social unrest within your community. This practice will allow you to be more aware of when social unrest is most likely to occur and take a proactive approach to protecting your business, which may include altering business hours, assessing property vulnerabilities and avoiding unnecessary conflict should an event occur.


Addressing Social Unrest in the Workplace

Being prepared to address social unrest in the workplace can help equip managers to deliver the support and resources that employees may need. In addition, creating and communicating a plan today can help set expectations for your company as a whole.

It’s important to remember that every employee is different and will be affected by social unrest in their own unique way. While they are entitled to their own opinions and feelings, there are steps you can take to ensure that their concerns are acknowledged in an acceptable way, that they feel supported and that workplace conflict is avoided. Some best practices to consider include:

Remember, not every business is the same. However, it is important to encourage and promote a safe, inclusive and supportive workplace for all employees.