Forward-thinking leaders are always cognizant of their political environments. They routinely ask themselves:
“How could new legislation, prevailing perspectives or political turmoil affect my organization?”
“How can I best prepare for a range of outcomes while remaining faithful to my core values?”
While proactivity is clearly the best approach, (as we’ve recently been reminded) there are simply some political moments that are almost impossible to fully anticipate. On January 27th, U.S. President, Donald Trump, issued an executive order barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States (including travellers with dual citizenships).
Just days later, a gunman attacked a Quebec City mosque, killing six people and injuring eight others. So far, the only suspect is a 27-year-old extremist who allegedly routinely expressed his objections to Muslim immigration to Canada.
Both incidents elicited swift and vocal responses in the United States and around the world – notably the widespread protests that erupted at American airports and consulates following Trump’s order, and the outpouring of grief and condolences offered in the wake of the terrorist attack in Quebec.
Understandably, large, multinational organizations are under considerable pressure to publicly address both events.
Among the most prominent critics of Trump’s policy were the leaders of several large technology corporations, including Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook.
A few others dropped the ball.
But, do we (and should we) expect small and medium-sized organizations to also respond?
Simply put, yes.
We know that consumers are watching (particularly on social media). So, too, are employees, potential partners, and other stakeholders. If we consider organizations of all sizes to be critical members of our communities, then their silence on these issues can be conspicuous.
In our work at Splash Effect, our clients often ask us to craft stakeholder relations and social media strategies to help navigate their organizations through difficult socio-political moments.
Here are 5 ways that leaders of small and medium organizations can respond:
Acknowledge the situation and create room for discussion.
Silence can be deafening. This political moment (particularly in diverse organizations) will remain the elephant in the room until it’s explicitly addressed by your organization’s leadership. Ignoring it may cause some colleagues to question your commitment to equity. They are waiting for you to speak up.
Make it clear that you are aware of what has happened, and that you are also concerned. Then create space for dialogue to allow your colleagues to openly express their concerns.
Take a stand.
Certain circumstances require organizational “neutrality” – this is not one of them. Make a simple, unequivocal statement of support for Muslims and communicate that you don’t condone Islamophobia, xenophobia or discrimination of any kind.
Check in and listen.
There are folks on your team who are emotionally and personally connected to these events – particularly Muslim members of our communities, and people from the countries mentioned in the ban. But there are also people who generally feel less safe or less welcome as a result of the socio-political climate. Without singling them out, find out how they’re doing.
Listen to input from your team members and partners, and seek guidance from organizations dedicated to promoting inclusivity. We recommend “How to be an Ally”, a helpful tip sheet produced by Rania El Mugammar, The Inspirit Foundation, and the Centre for Social Innovation, as a great starting point.
Look in the mirror.
Despite comprehensive diversity policies and our best intentions, our unconscious (and deliberate) actions often prevent us from creating truly equitable environments. Leaders should examine the hidden ways in which they may contribute to exclusion.
At Splash Effect, though we take pride in our team’s diversity, and our commitment to equity, we routinely have very honest discussions about our own practices. Some of our recent dialogue allowed us to identify some diversity and equity gaps in our day-to-day routine, and we are significantly stronger for it.
Go beyond lip service.
Find concrete ways to demonstrate your opposition to Islamophobia. Starbucks, for instance, announced that it would hire 10,000 refugees in light of Trump’s executive order. Granted, few organizations have the capacity to offer this kind of support. But even smaller companies can find awesome ways to show solidarity through in-kind or monetary donations to refugees or to the victims of the mosque attack.
Beginning these conversations can be difficult, but if “diversity is our strength”, as Prime Minister Trudeau continues to reiterate, then organizations owe it to themselves to start talking.
- We joined over 150 Canadian (mostly tech) organizations in signing an open letter against Islamophobia, and in support of inclusion. You can join us by signing on here.
- The Regional Diversity Roundtable of Peel created a diversity and inclusion charter with a list of helpful commitments that leaders can make to create more equitable organizations.
- Sign up for our newsletter for more helpful tips, advice and news about our upcoming events or drop us a line to learn more about our approach to stakeholder communication.