How To Avoid An Occupy Wall Street-esque Movement At Your Business

by | Nov 15, 2011 | Blog, Employee Morale, Employee Relations, Monitoring Employees

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

As of Tuesday morning, Occupy Wall Street is no longer occupying Zuccotti Park in New York City.

At 1:20 a.m. on Tuesday (according to the official Occupy Wall Street website, yes, that exists), Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered police officers to raid the two-month-old Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park. Mayor Bloomberg said the park’s owners had asked for the city’s help in enforcing its rules against sleeping there. So police, armed in riot gear, cleared out protesters and their tents.

Now these aren’t just any old backyard camping tents the police officers threw out. These tents held a library, media center, legal aid, information and even the sanitation areas and they were all broken down and placed into rolling trash containers.

But don’t think this movement is going down without a fight. Zuccotti Park was the birthplace and main stage for what has become a wave of nationwide protests targeting corporate bailouts and economic inequality.

Their motto “We are the 99%” spurred people around the U.S. to take pictures of themselves holding hand-written letters in front of their faces explaining why they are the 99%. And of course, those awkward pictures have become the center of spoofs only drawing even more attention to the protest.

The Occupy Wall Street website said after the raid, “You can’t evict an idea whose time has come.” Just a few hours after the raid, the website posted a new meeting place for its protesters and encouraged people to “turn out en masse.” Then, a state judge issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the city from evicting protesters from the park. So as this blog is being written, it is still up in the air whether or not the protesters will be allowed to return (either with or without their tents).

Now you’ve reached the point of our blog where we connect this craziness to your business. Are you ready for this? It’s going to be good.

As business owners, the last thing you want is disgruntled employees feeling like they don’t have a forum to express their concerns.

So how do you avoid an Occupy Wall Street at your company?

This movement is all about the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech. And how do people usually interpret their first amendment right? As a get out of jail free card to complain wherever and to whomever and about whatever they want. These outbursts are typically preceded by days, weeks, months or even years of repression. You may have an Occupy Wall Street (or a similar, yet smaller and maybe more organized) movement brewing behind those cubicle walls and not even know it!

Suddenly, complaints around the water cooler including “We don’t get enough vacation days” or “I work too many weekends” turn into less productivity and a higher turnover rate. We all know one “negative Nancy” in the office can bring every one down.

So what should you do?

Now, you cannot take away your employee’s First Amendment rights. That’s just a little bit illegal.

What you need to do is give them an appropriate and easy way to express themselves that does not disrupt your business.

Here are some ideas your business can put in place so employees can express their opinions and concerns.

  • Train your managers to handle complaints: Don’t just have them say, “Thanks for telling me about that,” and then do nothing about it. How do you respond to employee complaints? Managers and supervisors need to listen to the complaints, ask open-ended questions to learn as much as they can about the situation, and make sure to pass the information along to the appropriate person. It is also important that employee complaints DO NOT become the butt of jokes around the break room. Complaints should be confidential!
  • Set up a hotline: By creating a confidential, anonymous telephone or online hotline, employees can dial-in to express complaints without the fear of retaliation.
  • Conduct employee satisfaction surveys: Surveys are a good tool because they can be confidential and anonymous just like the hotline. Assure your employees that you are not going to hire a hand writing analysis expert to match each survey with its corresponding employee. (Hey, that might be a legitimate concern!)
  • Host employee focus groups. Sometimes employees will be more comfortable sharing discomforts with peers who are on their level. One employee can be elected to share the results of the focus group with a supervisor.
  • Make available suggestion boxes. A suggestion box is another confidential and anonymous way to receive comments and complaints.
  • Hire an outside third party professional: An outside third party such as an HR professional is a great way to have your employee feel comfortable expressing themselves. Employees often feel more comfortable talking to someone who is a safe distance away from the every day business operations instead of putting a slip of paper into a box that someone may never read. Click here to learn more about how Integrity HR can be your third party HR professional.

Every employee has a different personality and different level discomfort when it comes to expressing concerns. By having different options, the employee can pick which one they feel most comfortable with.

Don’t forget to make sure you keep employees informed about the status of their complaint and what is being done about it.

Remember: Companies that intentionally create a “culture of candor” foster an environment where employees trust employers enough to voice complaints (and you avoid the chance of an Occupy Wall Street-esque movement).

Do you or your supervisors need to learn how to coach employees to achieve better productivity?

Integrity HR is hosting an intensive three-day training session for executives, professionals and support staff. Participants are guaranteed to walk away more confident, more productive, more in-command, and better able to get things done through other people. Click here to learn more about our upcoming Leadership Boot Camp.

Need to have training programs for your employees? Click here to learn about Integrity HR’s training programs.

Questions about how to handle complaints around the office? Comment below or contact us today!

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