Employee activism – why taking a stand won’t cut it
Trend watchers were right when they said that employee activism would become one of the big purpose trends in 2020.
Employee activism – an era of action
As people choose to work for companies in a search for meaning rather than money, they expect their leaders to make business decisions based on ethics and values rather than financial ROI.
Over the past months we’ve reported on many examples of companies pivoting to help out during the Covid crisis. And over the past week, we’ve seen the topic reaching new heights. Individuals AND brands are taking a stand on racial injustice and police violence.
Many efforts are being made to communicate companies’ stands in solidarity with the black community.
And many such attempts are being criticised. Why?
One explanation is provided by Heidi Schoeneck in our ebook “Seven Purpose Stories by Power Women”. She explains how taking a stand on a societal issue is like drawing an empty circle.
“Say you manage to communicate and you get people to feel something. That’s a great result. But if you don’t tell them what to do once they feel that thing, nothing happens. This is the empty circle.”
In other words: stories no longer count. We’ve entered an era of action.
This demand for action forces business leaders into picking the lesser of two evils:
Don’t take action: Brands neglecting to take swift and decisive action are wrong. Saying nothing, doing nothing, or taking an unfavourable decision will lead to criticism, walkouts and possibly a damaged reputation. Check out the employee walkout article below. Or take a look at the impossible decision that Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema had to take this week.
Take action: Taking action in a lot of cases causes accusations of hypocrisy. Because it’s not only about what you do and say now. It’s about long term behaviour; previous actions that were not in accordance with your current-day statements and actions count.
Read on for some great articles on employee activism.
How corporate employee activism has evolved
This article by Dominic Hofstetter explains how the trend of employee activism has formed over the past years. It also shows how it can be a powerful force to tackle some of the biggest societal issues.
Walkouts – a rough week for Zuckerberg
A lengthy New York Times article on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s conversation with employees. His inaction following president Trump’s posts (subscription needed) caused some employees to quit.
This article on vulture.com is a fairly aggressive take on the hypocrisy of recent corporate actions.
Meanwhile The New York Times takes more of a contemplative approach to the same issue.