by Adam O’Neill MBA, SPHR
Sr. Human Resources Consultant
Small businesses seek to hire the best, the brightest, and the most gifted employees from a talent pool that looks very much like our local community. We devote hours upon hours recruiting and selecting employees we feel are the best fits for our organizations. Yet inevitably, once that perfect hire gets established in the office or shop, and as we get to really know our new colleague (at and outside of work), we discover they have some very different personal opinions about the world in which we live. This should not come as a surprise.
We do our best to keep things focused, polite, and professional during working hours, but after-hours social media exchanges can often get contentious. In fact, most of us have been witness to, or engaged in, heated discussions on social media, and we know how quickly insults and name-calling can ensue when rules (and consequences) don’t exist. Unfettered expressions of opinion among colleagues – whether at work or on social media – can have a detrimental impact on productivity, morale and retention, and the company’s reputation.
So here are a few things that businesses can do to help bring about a more perfect work environment:
- Encourage Mutual Respect & Emphasize Diversity and Inclusion. Every employee is unique. As colleagues, we work together to achieve a common business mission, and this is done within the ever-changing framework of company culture – a blend of the unique traits each individual employee brings to the company. Differences provide depth. Differing perspectives prevent group-think. Differing points of view challenge conventional thought and break down barriers to innovation. Different upbringings and backgrounds provide opportunities to learn and expand our understanding of fellow human beings. Differences expand our potential business markets. Successful business leaders embrace employee differences and foster environments that encourage the respectful sharing of individual employee experiences and how they relate to the core business mission.
- Be Transparent, Fair and Consistent. Workplace policies cover rights & responsibilities of employers and employees, and they establish expectations of performance and behavior. Ensure all employees receive training on the policies, and that mandatory workplace posters are prominently displayed. Review the company handbook frequently for compliance with ever-changing labor laws, and ensure policies are applied consistently. Disciplinary action for policy violations must be fair and consistent, and it should be focused on corrective action wherever possible.
- Establish an Opinion-Expression Policy to provide the framework for acceptable and prohibited communications in the workplace. Written to comply with federal, state, and local employment laws, such a policy provides the company some protection against legal scrutiny should an employee feel the workplace has become hostile due to others’ opinions being expressed. Topics such as required training, for management as well as all employees, and disciplinary action are typically included in such a policy. Considering an employer’s rights, an individual employee’s right to a hostile-free environment, and First Amendment rights, it is important to have an Opinion-Expression Policy reviewed by legal counsel.
Acadia HR has been helping businesses locally and nationally since 1989 by delivering tools and resources to build efficiencies in their clients through personal, customized service. For more information on outsourcing options, please call 845.876.1987 or email sales@AcadiaHR.com.