Islamaphobia and Bathophobia, but should it be Metathesiophobia?

The HR Brexit Blog written by Helen Jamieson

Welcome to the 2nd Brexit blog from Jaluch. The Brexit years are going to be a testing time for HR. This blog aims to address some of the issues we, as a profession, have to face as and when they emerge.  

This week my question for HR is about phobias as Trump has been giving us lots to discuss. I have no doubt you already understand what Islamophobia is, fear, prejudice or hatred against Islam and/or Muslims. Many of us for some time have had to deal with issues of Islamophobia in the workplace and religious hate crimes shot up by 1200% after 9/11 and have shot up at other times too in response to terrorism.

Interestingly though, such fears have also brought to the surface some of the age old issues around colour of skin, those with black skin bearing much of the brunt. Some might call it Islamophobia. I call it old fashioned racism which has reared its nasty head and needs stamping out fast. So don’t focus so much on Islam and Muslims, that you miss that happening in your workplace.

Moving on, Bathophobia is an irrational and overwhelming fear of depth, inclines and steps: President Trump supposedly suffers from this phobia and claims that it caused him to grasp Teresa May by the hand. This phobia and his hand holding has led to a wealth of photo journalistic opportunities, not all of which will have been welcomed by May. It has even been suggested that his grasping her hand was nothing short of an act of manipulation and power play on his part. I’ll leave you to decide!

Bathophobia is a recognised condition and you may have been asked by an employee suffering from this to put up handrails on both sides of any stairways you have. In my view, disability legislation is unlikely to change substantively with the Brexit process so I suggest you consider any request seriously.

And last but not least, I mentioned Metathesiophobia in the title. Metathesiophobia is fear of change, something you are probably seeing in every corner of your workplace.

Almost every debate about Brexit, May’s responsiveness, Trump’s decision making, democracy in the UK, the economy etc. is impacted by how comfortable people feel about change, the pace of change and how change may or may not impact them personally. As a result, change leads to many very real HR issues including stress, depression, absenteeism, reduced productivity, employee unrest etc.

Managing these is no doubt already keeping you busy. So, to finish this blog, here are my top 3 ways of keeping on top of emotions at work during significant periods of change:

  • Educate your managers and staff about the change curve. Show them that if they are angry, depressed, refusing to accept what is happening around them, all of that is entirely normal. Their reactions are normal. They are not alone if they are struggling with change. Managers and staff need to know this.
  • Conduct 6 monthly staff surveys focussing on communication and morale. Use this exercise not as a tool to beat the company with, but as a means of understanding how people are feeling and coping and gathering their ideas about what is working and what is not.
  • Focus as much on employee morale and employee emotions as process and procedure. There is a place for process and procedure, but if you don’t recognise and acknowledge the emotions, you will struggle managing at all during this difficult period.

Thoughts, ideas? Please do add your comments.

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