In a situation that divides opinion within an organisation what questions should we be asking?

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31st May 2016
The Implications for Leaders Facing Uncertainty and Division of Opinion in the Workplace – A Post EU Referendum Analysis
1st September 2016
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In a situation that divides opinion within an organisation what questions should we be asking?

Tackling Challenging Conversations

Neuroscience dictates that we, as humans dislike change, and in particular, we dislike uncertainty.  Whilst the leaders of the country continue to grapple to establish a new direction, leaders of business can seize the opportunity to provide focus and a way forward to those seeking it.

Just a few weeks have passed since arguably one of the biggest shake ups in the UK’s political history.  Regardless of your position on the EU referendum, whether you were celebrating or drowning your sorrows on 24th June, whether you’re feeling filled with excitement or dread at what lies ahead, right now we’re dealing with the fallout of a divided nation. This is being felt in families, communities, schools, regions and inevitably in organisations.

In the last few weeks we’ve been approached by leaders seeking advice on a range of issues arising post-Brexit.  These range from questioning the best approach for leader and corporate communications in such a situation, to managing disharmony between employees and establishing some solid ground upon which to reunify the company.

One leader told us that he’d found it difficult to look some of his employees in the eye since the vote, knowing that they’d voted the ‘other way’, equally employees have told us they feel their relationship with some colleagues has been damaged as a result of the referendum, we’ve even had reports of stand up arguments in the staff canteen.

Some employees feel Brexit has damaged their relationships with colleagues

So the question is how can leaders manage the divide that has taken place and is manifesting itself within businesses across the country? What’s the right way to go about reconnecting employees and reconnecting teams and reunifying organisations as a whole?

Now that the dust is starting to settle, is it time to re-evaluate the situation?  Where are we?  Where do we think our people are?  Are our vision and values fit for purpose? What can we do to ensure our employees remain aligned with our business? What can we learn from this experience?

Companies with a robust vision and values, a clear direction and a fully engaged and motivated workforce weather even the toughest storms.  Whatever the company values, now is the time to be true to them.  For example, if the values are about respect, then we can consider whether we are working with differences of opinion in a respectful manner and how we can reinforce the importance of respect across our business.

According to the Harvard Business Review (2002), value systems at resilient companies change very little over the years and are used as scaffolding in times of trouble.  In an article with Mike Eskew, UPS Chairman and CEO after a major strike at the organisation Eskew said “It was a hugely difficult time, like a family feud. Everyone had close friends on both sides of the fence, and it was tough for us to pick sides. But what saved us was our Noble Purpose. Whatever side people were on, they all shared a common set of values. Those values are core to us and never change; they frame most of our important decisions. Our strategy and our mission may change, but our values never do”.

Our Brexit Employee Impact Survey was conducted in August 2016 among a sample of 1,000 managers, leaders and senior executives in organisations across the UK.  Headline results show that Brexit has indeed triggered uncertainty and anxiety among employees and had an effect on employee morale. The importance of discussing Brexit in the context of organisational vision and values is recognised by the majority of respondents, but this is not necessarily currently taking place.

• 67% of respondents told us they believe that Brexit has caused uncertainty among employees within their organisation
• We can see a 50/50% split between organisations that have seen an increase in stress and anxiety and those that have not
• 57% reported a drop in employee morale post Brexit, 2% reported a positive impact on staff morale and 41% indicated they hadn’t seen any impact
• Whilst over 80% of respondents considered it important to discuss Brexit in the context of organisational vision and values, 45% indicated that this was not currently the reality within their businesses

Our full report; The Implications for Leaders Facing Uncertainty and Division of Opinion in the Workplace – A Post EU Referendum Analysis is now available.  If you’d like to receive a copy, then email jennie.flower@minervaengagement.com.  For more information about employee audits, internal communications strategy and delivery, defining and embedding vision and values, leadership skills development in times of crisis and improving employee wellbeing and resilience please get in touch.

Jennie Flower, Business Development Director, Minerva Engagement

Minerva Engagement improves business from the inside out.  View more blogs from Minerva Engagement or follow us on Twitter @MinervaEngage.