Religious and political strife in the workplace – Are you ready?

Oh lovely readers… 1446 blog readers in April but no one left me any comments! I throw my little grenades into the water but they seem to be creating no mini explosions. Not even any ripples! Go on, be courageous, tell the world what you think of some of these issues.

Anyway, reader comments aside, in this blog I wanted to raise the spectre of an epidemic of fear, phobia, bias and discrimination. I am of course referring to a mixture of worldwide events that might just all come to a head this year and the fallout will inevitably hit workplaces at some point. Are you ready?

The events I refer to include:

  • The exposure of the practice of serving or selling us all halal meats without our knowledge which is whipping up both anger and hostility.
  • Nationalism movements in both Cornwall and Scotland that we have yet to see the outcome.
  • The rise of UKIP in our national politics and the possibility of a retreat from the EU.
  • The threat of war over Ukraine which is unsettling for us but, I would imagine, enormously unsettling for all those in the UK from the Eastern European countries.
  • Continuing Shia/Sunni Muslim strife around the world which has no end in sight.
  • Last but not least, the very emotional and traumatic hostage taking of 270 Nigerian girls by a group who proclaim that women should not be educated.

The reality is that world events often impact the business community. We are used to this by now: Trade sanctions; higher, lower or new taxes; falling or rising stock markets; the opening up of new territories etc. all impact business. But here we have a number of events that may well impact staff. The people you work with and employ. These events are likely to have an impact on employee relations, on recruiting and dismissing decisions, on harmony and happiness within the work environment.

After 9/11 research showed that across the US, hate crimes against Muslims rose by 1600%. This fear of Islam was experienced both in and outside of work. Religious strife and religious fever create enormous unrest and often sets individual against individual. If you want evidence of this just check out this YouTube clip of two professional men coming to blows in a TV studio. They ripped the place apart. Have a look at the video here.

In the case of the furore over Halal meat, the added complexity appears to be the widely held sentiment of having been duped into accepting a religious practice that is not the religion of the majority. The suggestions I have read in the media of ‘fundamentalist Islam infiltrating our society’ will inevitably create ever increasing suspicion and fear amongst the different groups of people at work.

In our lives, I am sure that many of us have experienced the dividing and polarising nature of politics and it appears to me, that both the imminent European elections, next years General Election in the UK and the Scottish independent vote are more likely to be decided on emotion and fear rather than logic and fact. Especially in the case of European politics, the current anti European sentiment and anti ‘foreigner’ sentiment that is gathering pace, whether rightly or wrongly, will filter into workplaces.

My advice is that leaders, senior managers and HR staff need to be on red alert for unrest in the workplace. To ensure they feel confident to address rather than ignore any political or religious hostilities. To support line managers to ensure even minor acts of bullying and discrimination can be quickly picked up on and resolved before they escalate into something more serious.

It’s a time to really keep an eye on your people. To check that morale is good. To make sure that conflicts are quickly resolved and that trouble makers quickly moved out.

Now is not the time to snooze.

Thoughts, ideas, experiences all welcomed of course!

If Jaluch can support you with managing or dismissing difficult people, transforming organisational dinosaurs, or delivering unconscious bias or diversity training, please do get in touch with me. I will be delighted to hear from you.

 

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