Ep 34 – Politics at Work: Wayfair Employees Walk Out in Protest

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Ep 34 – Politics at Work: Wayfair Employees Walk Out in Protest

No matter how much we try to avoid it, politics is present in the workplace. I’m not talking about workplace politics between managers and teams but American politics especially in light of the upcoming Presidential Election. A study reported by Scientific American found that 87% of employees “read political social media posts at work” and 80% percent of those polled said they have discussed politics with professional contacts or colleagues.

Politics is more than just a democrats vs. republicans divide. People have strong opinions about topics that have traditionally not been in the workplace like gun control, climate change, and immigration. I know I have some opinions about these topics, especially in light of recent events, and I know you do too.

Today’s featured article comes from Washington Postis titled, “’A cage is not a home’: Hundreds of Wayfair employees walk out to protest sales to migrant detention center.”

Hundreds of Wayfair employees walked out on the job in June after workers discovered that the company had sold $200,000 worth of furniture to a Texas detention center housing migrant children.

The Boston-based retailer, which has not publicly addressed the employees’ concerns, made a $100,000 donation to the Red Cross on. The Red Cross confirmed the donation and said it would put the funds toward its efforts “helping with the border crisis in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.”

Employees said the donation was not enough and called on the company to create new ethics guidelines that would prevent future business with contractors overseeing detention camps for immigrants. Protesters held signs that said “a prison with a bed is still a prison” and “supplying is supporting.”

Earlier last year I talked with Councilwoman Wendy Berry who ran for office in 2018 in her city ward in Minnesota. Wendy shares her unique perspective as an HR leader who ran for office and is currently serving her term. I asked her should employees be political at work?

No, it’s a tricky question. I mean, two years ago was when that topic got even more touchy. You know what? The 2016 presidential election. Admittedly, there was someone who’d come to me directly saying, my co-worker has this sign and it’s offensive to me. And right away, I jumped on that person, signed that side. I was like, oh, my gosh. Me, too. We take it down. But I had to step back. H.R. practitioners like I agree with you and that person is entitled to their opinion, too. And the sign was really big. So. So that’s it. That’s a different story. But I think it’s important that we know our employees are passionate about things and we have to let them be their true selves. And we have to let them be their true selves in a respectful manner to the people they work with. You know, right now people are scared of losing their rights in some cases. And that’s something we have to acknowledge and to offer them opportunity to be scared and not tell them that they can’t talk about it. We just have to make sure that they’re allowed to do that in a way that’s safe for them, too.

I think that’s important.

Oh, any any advice for those HR pros out there that maybe a managers come in and said somebody is, you know, has a big sign or they’re saying things in the break room and I don’t agree with that? Or can you take care of this for me? Do we stop those conversations or do you think that we should let them continue?

I think we have to continue. I mean, we have to let them continue in a respectful way. If someone’s screaming someone in the other in the break room, that’s different. But we act what continue. We can’t tell people not to bring their true selves or full selves to work and expect that not to be part of it. You know, as long as your remains respectful, just like any other sick patient, I think it’s appropriate.

Employees are becoming not just politically conscious but also socially conscious too. The expectation is that an employee’s interests align with the organization’s mission and values. It’s part of the reason that employees are choosing to work and stay employed at certain organizations.

I know I’m personally taking a more active stance when it comes to social causes and politics. You’ll see more from me and Workology during this upcoming presidential election. Your employees likely are feeling this way and acting this way too, and it’s a challenge as HR leaders and representatives of the business to find that happy balance allowing employees freedom of expression that also focuses on a company’s business goals and employee performance goals.

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Featured Story

‘A cage is not a home’: Hundreds of Wayfair employees walk out to protest sales to migrant detention center

More Great Resource

· The Impact of Politics on Workplace Productivity

· Ep 156 – Workplace Politics and Running for Office While in HR


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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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