We at Counterweight work with individuals and organizations facing cancellation and coercion. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned:
- Don’t give in to the mob
If you, an employee or your company are unjustly accused of an “ism,” don’t automatically give in to the mob. Take a page out of the playbook of the niche grocery store chain Trader Joe’s and stand firm. Attacked for racist labeling of food products, the company said it does not view labels such as “Trader Ming’s” or “Arabian Joe’s” as racist. Here’s what management had to say: “A few weeks ago, an online petition was launched calling on us to ‘remove racist packaging from [our] products… we want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist.”
That’s how it’s done. The outcry immediately subsided. Had they folded, the mob would have continued to go after them and every other supposedly culturally-appropriated product on the shelf.
- Make your commitment to free expression clear in your value statement
Most organizations have nothing in their value statements articulating their commitment to free expression and noncoercion. It probably never occurred to them that they would ever have a problem. Well, they do now. A skilled consultant can help you to articulate the value you place on “viewpoint diversity” and develop an action plan to integrate this value into your culture with maximum internal support.
- Develop a set of policies that reflect these values
Very often, companies articulate values and then adopt or leave in place a set of policies that contradict those very values.They say they give their employees latitude on social media to express their ideas but then the employee handbook has lawyer-written admonitions against free expression and a litany of fireable offenses for posting on Twitter. Such contradictions are not lost on employees and render your values meaningless. Revise your employee handbook with an eye toward viewpoint diversity and freedom of expression- and be consistent.
- Let new employees know where you stand
Each year the Dean of Students at the University of Chicago informs incoming freshmen that the school values free expression and not to come to campus expecting safe spaces from ideological tension. Likewise, you can inform your incoming employees of these values and screen them during the interview process. It’s much easier to onboard a new employee in liberal values than to bring along one already in the system.
- Be very clear with employees who refuse to live up to your values
Now, this is the hard part. Changing an organizational culture is never easy. There are always holdouts who refuse to go along. As long as they are spreading ill-will and cynicism, the culture won’t change. You need to be willing to say that “while you are entitled to believe anything you want, you are not entitled to impose those beliefs on the rest of the organization. And if you can’t live with that perhaps you need to find another place to work.” No one ever said change was easy.
- Assess how you’re doing over time
How do you know if you are succeeding in creating a more ideologically diverse and tolerant atmosphere in your company? You can ask your employees at various stages of the process! With Counterweight’s survey on viewpoint diversity, you can see where you are and where you need to go. Please don’t hesitate to call on us.
To find out more about Viewpoint diversity consultancy services please email David Bernstein at DavidLBernstein66@gmail.com.
David Bernstein is an Affiliate at Counterweight and Principal of Viewpoint consulting. Follow him on Twitter @Blogunwoke.