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Working the Future blog: our latest insights and future of work sensemaking

WHY RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE IS EVERYONE’S BUSINESS

2022-03-14 08:29

Kimberley-Marie Sklinar

Blog, EMPLOYEE ACTIVISM, FUTURE OF WORK CONSULTING, WORKLIFE BLEND,

WHY RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE IS EVERYONE’S BUSINESS

Last night I received a message from my friend. She wouldn’t be setting off for Germany until the morning, she said, but for now she was safe in a house in...

wtffutureofworkukraine.png

Last night I received a message from my friend. She wouldn’t be setting off for Germany until the morning, she said, but for now she was safe in a house in Romania. Her hosts, whom she’d met earlier that day, were being incredibly hospitable. It was an opportunity for her two children to relax a bit after the journey they’d just finished. Tomorrow they would endure 27 hours of buses together, crossing several countries. This wasn’t a holiday, though – she had fled her village in northern Kyiv a few days ago with her two children, aged 12 and 15. Her husband and adult son remain in Ukraine as they are unable to leave.

 

The Russian invasion has captured hearts akin to a David vs. Goliath scenario, and the news is inescapable. 

 

How does this relate to internal communication, which is my particular area of expertise? 

 

Practitioners have a huge role to play in taking a stand in business conversations, educating colleagues, and even the more tactical side of their work, to organise fundraising and engagement events. We can encourage our organisations to speak up and take a stand, while helping people feel psychologically safe. 

 

As trust in governments and media continues to take a downward spiral, the CEO’s voice on societal issues becomes ever more critical. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer is a clear indicator that more and more people expect their employer to speak out on what’s going on in the world. Almost 60% choose a workplace that shares their own values.

 

If you haven’t communicated about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s safe to say that there’s probably quite a big blue and yellow elephant in your room.

 

Be genuinely supportive not performative

How we get involved with global issues is about our values. And by this, I don’t mean tokenistically changing the colour of your company’s logo on LinkedIn and thinking that’s a done deal.

 

Sadly, there will always be organisations who use a humanitarian crisis for their own gain. From small-fry influencers running sponsored social posts to promote a fashion brand, to political organisations claiming to rally with Ukrainians, but in reality banning them from their protests, many are capitalising on the Russian invasion to further their own interests. Yet, we can still be supportive without tooting our own horn.

 

Is your organisation changing any business practices to distance themselves? 

Many organisations have severed ties with Russia, removed their businesses from the Russian market completely, or simply stopped operations for now. Brands so far include Lego, IKEA, BP, Netflix, Diageo, Samsung, Airbus, Ford, Amazon, and Disney, among many others. Since I started writing this piece, several leading luxury goods companies and consumer brands, like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, have followed suit.

 

Even if your workplace isn’t connected to the situation, starting a conversation with colleagues is about doing what’s morally right, plain and simple. There’s only one ‘right’ side in this situation, and to stand by silently is to be complicit. 

 

Speaking up and condemning what’s going on doesn’t mean you’re making a political statement — it makes you a humanitarian. It makes you a leader.

 

Communicating for safety at work

The role of modern organisations includes owning their responsibility to instill a sense of safety and certainty within their stakeholder ecosystem.

 

British-Ukrainians like me have been living in plain sight all our lives — remember that many employees may have a direct connection to the situation.

 

This works on both sides, so be sure to consider any Russian colleagues or those with Russian family, as it’s important that they also feel safe at work and equally supported. This isn’t about Russian people, it’s about the Russian government.

 

It’s more than just signposting people to the Employee Assistance Programme though — I applaud organisations who have been organising lunchtime chats to openly discuss what’s going on in the news and for anyone to talk about how they feel. What we’re seeing unfold is disturbing even if you’re not affected, especially considering the two-year pandemic news cycle we’ve barely emerged from.

 

Check your facts

Internal communicators are part of the information war we see rapidly unfolding in front of our eyes. As the voice of our organisations, we have a responsibility to get our messages right. We must educate people in a truthful, factual way.

 

The names of places, terminology (such as saying, ‘Russian invasion’ rather than ‘Russian-Ukrainian war’, which makes it sound like Ukraine is complicit), and any finer points can make a whole world of difference in both how you educate colleagues and legitimise what’s going on to those affected.

 

When we’re not confident in what we’re saying or how to say it, we might skim over the facts and weaken our message. Which in turn means we may as well not say anything at all.

 

Let’s be honest — the world is a scary place right now and it will continue to be for the near future at least. So, look after yourself when consuming it and communicating it, should you choose to do so. And if you do not, ask yourself ‘what does your organisation stand for’?

 

PS: At the time of writing my friend was fleeing Ukraine. She has now arrived safely in Germany. 

 

Kimberley-Marie Sklinar

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