Office Activism Makes Crisis Management for Businesses More Difficult

Jonathan Bernstein crisis management

Office Activism Makes Crisis Management for Businesses More Difficult

Wall St. Journal Calls out the Problem

The article discusses the trend of business leaders being increasingly resistant to employee activism that disrupts workplace operations. Google’s recent firing of 28 employees who protested a cloud-computing contract with the Israeli government is highlighted as a significant example of this shift. Previously, many companies tolerated and even encouraged activism among their employees on various social and political issues. However, as divisive topics like politics and international conflicts become more prevalent in workplace discussions, companies are recalibrating their responses to ensure business operations aren’t hindered.  And as I told the Wall St. Journal:

Corporate leaders “are very concerned about public backlash, especially boards of directors,” said Jonathan Bernstein, founder and chairman of Bernstein Crisis Management, which advises companies on corporate communications and reputation management. 

Ignoring workplace dissent isn’t an option either, he said. Several clients, he said, are wrestling with squabbling staff on email and Slack over issues ranging from the war in Gaza to U.S. politics.

There Will Be Blood in the Workplace

Crisis prevention is the most important, the most life and money-saving, element of crisis management for businesses. Employers who have their heads in the sand about the visceral, emotional and physical impact of everything from Covid to human rights issues to Israel v. Hamas are suffering and will continue to suffer the consequences.  Hope for the best – plan for the worst.  And we think the worst-case facing American employers right now is increasingly aggressive and even violent confrontations between employees with radically different viewpoints.  Not only fighting each other, but demanding an employer back THEIR position.

What Do Organizations Need to Do Now about Activism?

Our top three recommendations:

  1. Hold a totally candid discussion involving leaders from the white- and blue-collar workforce.  Find areas on which you can agree and agree on how to handle matters on which you disagree strongly, but in a way that doesn’t materially impact the organization.
  2. Hire a conflict resolution expert to proactively come in and tell you how to minimize the risks of conflicts via realistic policies and training.
  3. Hire a crisis management firm that get you prepared for rapid and appropriate internal and external communications when conflicts happen.

Jonathan Bernstein
Founder & Chairman