Mark Fogel COVID-19, Diversity, Mark Fogel, politics, Race

I ended 2019 (literally) with my new years’ eve post that Politics has now arrived for all of us in HR. And now it is time for an update. What a month so far! Two of the biggest Supreme Court decisions this century – adding LGBQ protection to Title 7 and DACCA relief, racism taking center stage, and John Bolton’s tell all book.

And then there was the firing of the Prosecutor in NY’s Southern district and lots of sidebars with the President’s MAGA rallys…can you say “tik tok”?

All with a one-hundred-year pandemic in the background with over 40 million Americans out of work.

Can you all take a deep breath and exhale!

It is no longer a question if HR must deal with politics this year. We can thank a few rogue police officers and politicians for that. We are all now in very unenviable positions to respond to all our employees and clients on extremely sensitive topics. I’m sorry – there is nowhere to hide.

I did a post over on ERE recently titled Recruiting in the Age of Political Activism. I dished on the issues presented by employee and candidate political activism and what you should do in response. Bottom line – there are no stock answers. Add to this the issue of the silent majority – you know, the folks who are afraid to weigh in on any of the controversial topics of the day.

What if some of your employees do not agree with any of the topics and socially acceptable actions that are playing out in the world today?

If you do not jump on the Racism bandwagon does it make you a racist? Harsh discussion. If you are a conservative, should you be hiding under the bed sheets till this blows over?

I have a lot of conservative friends. They are feeling pressured right now to go along with the “politically correct” discussions and actions. Many were already there as your political affiliation does not dictate your position on this and other sensitive topics. I have family that work in law enforcement and the military…they too are feeling pressure too as incidents of police violence and use of the military in protest management escalate.

I like to play the middle ground. Those who know me are aware of my left of center social views and centrist financial views. But I have never felt that I should impose or force my views on others. Isn’t inclusion about accepting all points of view? I am not advocating for white supremacist viewpoints or any radical organization from getting a foothold on our daily interactions, just a fair and equitable dialogue for everyone.

My father fought in World War 2 for our rights and freedom. My nephew, who is currently  a career naval officer, puts his life on the line everyday to protect our liberties. I am a fierce believer in protecting our constitutional freedoms. I respect our military and our law enforcement. I also believe they need to act appropriately. No free passes for the disgusting behavior of a few over the past months and yes, years.

Now many of you reading this are being asked to come back to offices that may be the next breeding grounds for the current pandemic. Your employees are scared. You’re scared. Lots of decisions to be made about how you will operate your business or organization going forward.

You will have individuals with compromised medical conditions, older workers who know they are at higher risk, and employees with complicated family issues to contend with. No one ever thought your role in HR would encompass these dynamic and complicated issues. You need to be a social worker, psychologist, and peacekeeper.

But we are all on the official clock. We had the opportunity to help our organizations navigate the stay at home phase of the pandemic. The next phase is return to work.

Many of your employees are now invigorated with political ideology that until this year may have been dormant. All of us need to think through how we are going to respond to this anticipated onslaught of questions and actions. Add to it a presidential election year that will heat up with the summer temperatures. It may be one of the hottest summers on record. At least in terms of politics.

Your leadership has for the most part temporarily jumped on the politically correct and ethically correct side of the field on race relations. But race is only one of many issues in the workplace today. None of us can be myopic and forget about the dynamics at play. Furloughed employees, layoffs, past, present, and future. Tough choices and conversations ahead.

There are no short answers or shortcuts. Don’t react. Think things through. Take an extra few minutes and evaluate your policies and actions from all different points of view. Be fair and listen.

You already knew to do that. I am just giving you a reminder.

July 4th is only a week away. How apropos a holiday to hit as this discussion heats up. This year may be absent of larger events: fireworks, MLB baseball, beach gatherings and outdoor concerts. It will be a quieter holiday for most. And a demarcation point to get ready for the CIRCUS.

Happy holiday to all!