Are Your Employees Talking to the Press Instead of to You?

Joe Weinlick
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When disgruntled employees turn to the media to discuss workplace problems, it is not likely to go well for your company. Avoid this situation by creating an open-office environment where employees feel comfortable discussing issues, and always treat complaints seriously by following through and remediating as necessary. Cultivate the following mindsets and behaviors to better support your workers and reduce your likelihood of waking up to unsettling headlines.

1. Avoid Hypocrisy

Most companies have policies in place that are designed to ensure a fair, safe workplace. Unfortunately, each department might not consistently follow those policies. Employees are quick to recognize this disparity and may look outside the company to discuss the issue when difficult situations develop. To avoid this situation, be honest about your shortcomings, and welcome discussions about ways your organization fails and suggestions for improvements. Don't just refer discussions about workplace problems to HR. Instead, show your team that you personally care about their concerns and are ready to listen.

2. Embrace Your Values

Become familiar with your company's core values. If your organization doesn't have an official statement outlining these values, push for the development of one. Let these values guide your discussions and decisions surrounding controversial issues. Also, spend some time reflecting on your personal values. Keeping your values in line with your company's values help you lead your team in directions where discrimination and inequality are unacceptable and every employee is valued. These core values make it easier to respond properly to any workplace problems that do occur.

3. Prioritize Employee Engagement

Employee input is essential to developing great policies and for ensuring that those policies are valued and enforced. Emphasize company principles and policies that strive toward a safe and diverse workforce starting at the hiring stage and continuing throughout every level of your organization. Utilize training, employee newsletters, notices and face-to-face communication to make sure everyone knows what systems are in place for reporting workplace problems, providing feedback and solving problems.

4. Never Retaliate

When a complaint does come to your attention, do everything in your power to avoid any actual or perceived retaliation. Listen with empathy, and take all complaints seriously. It is natural to feel stress when workplace problems arise, but if you have strong organizational values for fairness and good policies for dealing with issues, you can feel confident in your ability to respond to the complaint in a timely and just manner.

Turning to the media is generally an employee's last-ditch effort to fix long-standing workplace problems. Help reduce the likelihood of this occurring by living your organization's values and ensuring that all workers feel comfortable bringing their concerns and suggestions to you. Remember that every complaint presents a learning opportunity and a chance for your organization to improve.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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