Reentering the rat race, considerations before ‘rage-quitting,’ and the ‘corporate empathy trap’

As the U.S. goes back to the office, get guidance on preventing workplace harassment and grab your weekly dose of messaging inspiration.

The week in comms 7-29-21

Ahoy there, brave communicators!

We hope you enjoy this week’s squadron of stories that offer takeaways for communicators from every rank and branch of service. Here’s what grabbed our attention for the week of July 26 – July 30, 2021.

1. Getting your office-life sea legs back.

The Washington Post has compiled a wonderful collection of return-to-work items, including pieces to help us all survive the travails of commuting, irksome co-workers, office banter and having to wear pants without drawstrings. The Post’s trove of guidance offers tips on successfully reentering the rat race, including pieces about:

  • Beating the traffic and mitigating the stress of commuting
  • Personal wellness and health ideas
  • Avoiding burnout
  • Handling watercooler talks without flipping over said watercooler in disgust
  • Maximizing your personal office space (and being mindful of others’ personal space)
  • Getting your office style back on point
  • Tasty, stress-free lunch ideas

Gird your loins, folks. Prepare your mind, heart and soul for the imminent return of commuting, unwashed microwaves, bad coffee and impromptu chats with Sally in marketing.

Alternatively, you might also consider rage-quitting! Before you do so…

2. What to consider before rage-resigning.

Before you peel out of the parking lot waving double middles at your colleagues, take a few moments to read this piece from Business Insider, which features suggestions from financial planner Chloe Moore. Moore says to ask yourself three questions before you decide to throw a bunch of papers in the air and start hitchhiking toward Mexico:

  • How does quitting affect your finances?
  • What are you giving up?
  • What will you miss out on if you leave too soon?

Moore concludes:

Finally, focus on the big picture and don’t let your emotions take over. Are you just leaving your current job because you’re frustrated? Will a new opportunity help you further your career? Don’t make an impulsive decision that you may regret long in the term. In addition to planning ahead financially, having a clear vision for your career and life will help you make an informed decision that is right for you.”

Counterpoint: Life is short; do whatever makes you happy.

3. Avoiding the ‘corporate empathy trap.’

It’s one thing to listen to someone’s problems. It’s quite another to actively reduce or mitigate people’s pain points.

That’s the gist of a thought-provoking piece in Time, which delves into the notion of workplace “empathy” and how companies are trying to go beyond buzzwords with more meaningful action.

As the piece reports: “According to the 2021 State of Workplace Empathy Study … only 1 in 4 employees believed empathy in their organizations was ‘sufficient.’” But what does “empathy” really mean in our current parlance—and what, exactly, do employees want from their employers?

As Time notes, many workers are skeptical of companies’ motives, seeing this pandemic-era push for empathy as “the latest in a long string of corporate attempts to distract from toxic or exploitative company culture, yet another scenario in which employers implore workers to be honest and vulnerable about their needs, then implicitly or explicitly punish them for it.”

Of course, empathy is always a good thing. We could all use more of it, along with hearty helpings of grace, understanding and validation. But it must be more than words.

For companies, much of this comes down to doing instead of saying. Acting rather than only listening. Something closer to proactive compassion, rather than facilitating “dialogue” or conducting grievance sessions.

As my esteemed colleague Ted Kitterman, editor for PR Daily, wrote in an email exchange this week:

“Workplace empathy is not a storytelling campaign or a monthly video from the CEO. It’s a way of life that has to trump profit to be meaningful—a quixotic notion in corporate America.”

4. Taking strides to prevent and mitigate workplace harassment.

The events at videogame outfit Activision Blizzard this week underscore the importance of rooting out workplace harassment and discrimination before it explodes into a full-blown crisis.

Beyond state-mandated harassment trainings, what’s your company doing to thwart vile behavior? The EEOC has compiled a fact sheet offering clarity on a multitude of issues, noting that employers cannot “discriminate against individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity” regarding:

  • hiring
  • firing, furloughs, or reductions in force
  • promotions
  • demotions
  • discipline
  • training
  • work assignments
  • pay, overtime, or other compensation
  • fringe benefits
  • other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.

That’s a lot of ground to cover—and you might be tempted to view this as mostly HR’s concern—but communicators should be keenly aware of efforts to fight bias wherever they see it. Whether it’s based on race, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation, discrimination is wrong—not to mention illegal. And if you try to sweep it under the rug, ignore it or look the other way, your company could pay a heavy cost.

Here’s more guidance on fighting sexism, preventing LGBTQ discrimination, avoiding ageism, and combating anti-Asian bias. (Feel free to add more anti-bias resources you’ve found helpful in the comments, please.)

5. Your weekly dose of comms inspiration.

Let’s close with some nice news! This week, let’s draw encouragement from:

Take good care of yourselves, comms champions. And keep up the good work.

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