Since the onset of the 24-hour news cycle and the constant barrage of social media blogs, the way things are characterized seems to have evolved into creating the most sensationalized sound bite. It is increasingly difficult to determine what is fact and what is sensationalism these days. What effect does all of this have on our work environments and society in general? Let me share some examples.
Individuals who have become radicalized through social media and the internet are urged on to become home-grown terrorists. The mainstream media typically refers to an individual committing a terrorist act as a lone wolf. A lone wolf is generally described as a calculating and cunning hunter that strikes its prey after careful selection. By referring to these despicable terrorists as lone wolves, some say that this potentially fuels future acts of home-grown terror by lending a somewhat legitimizing label to these despicable acts that provides the perpetrator with some level of stature and validation. Perhaps the media and everyone else can be convinced to refer to these radicalized terrorists as LONE RATS! After all, rats have been despised throughout history because they carried with them an image of plague, death and undermining of civil society. It is doubtful that anyone would view being called a Lone Rat as a badge of honor.
Similarly, ISIS has become the common term to describe one of the worst band of vicious and ruthless killers in modern history. ISIS is the name of choice by these brazen terrorists trying to legitimize themselves as the Islamic State. Their mantra is not just about eliminating all the infidels in the world; they also focus on eliminating anyone who does not support their cause. They have no respect for the rule of law, civility, religious beliefs or the preservation of historical icons. These brutal murderers take to social media with graphic videos of beheadings and other heinous acts, all in the name of recruiting supporters and individuals to join their organization or to promote self-radicalization of others and urge them to conduct terrorists acts in their home countries. The governments of Russia, France and the United Kingdom have made a concerted effort to refer to this organization as Daesh. ISIS hates the name Daesh due to the negative connotation it has in the Arabic language. Perhaps if everyone adopted Daesh instead of ISIS when referring to this group of thugs and murderers, it may help dissuade their supporters and followers.
There are significant undercurrents of discord taking place in societies around the world today. Organizations promoting disruption of societal norms, anarchism and even terrorism get significant coverage from today’s many forms of 24/7 communications. But, what impact does all of this have on everyday civility and order in our society? How does this spill over into our workforce?
Our workplaces are a microcosm of society. As security executives, we face increasing challenges dealing with a workforce inundated with information overload... which includes a lot of misinformation and negativity thrown into the mix. It is incumbent on security executives to monitor and gauge how these societal undercurrents may boil over into the workplace. Violence in the workplace was the number one concern of security executives in the last Security 500 survey. Perhaps a study needs to be conducted to determine if there is any correlation between this constant barrage of messaging and how and if it contributes to violence in the workplace, radicalization and discord in society. Some prime examples worth studying might include the incidents in San Bernadino, Tampa, Nice and Berlin, to name just a few.
Most enterprises today have Value Statements which typically include treating people with dignity, respect and civility. How we communicate with our workforce, our families and those we interact with in our universe of influence can make a substantial difference. Security executives are trusted voices within their enterprises and may just have an important role to play in changing the discourse.
Some may say that workforce communications is the exclusive role of HR or the Corporate Communications department, but as a security executive shouldn’t you also have a role to play? Security is expected to tell it like it is to the C-suite, mid-level management and the workforce in general. Security’s messaging in most enterprises is deeply trusted information, guidance and advice without any spin associated with it.
Many security executives work with their HR departments to include key questions in workforce climate surveys. These surveys can produce significant data on trends in workplace issues and concerns. Properly interpreting this data and the associated trends can assist the security organization in helping the HR and Corporate Communications departments to create training and messaging focused at altering negative behavioral trends and other undercurrents in the workforce.
Educating employees on their individual role in contributing to a positive and productive workplace environment goes a long way. Additionally, reinforcing employees’ responsibility to report issues of concern they see in others can go a long way towards reducing tragic incidents of violence and other insider threats. In the end, it all relates back to treating others with dignity and respect, while creating an environment that promotes harmony and civility.
I welcome your thoughts on how and what role security executives should play in dealing with these issues in the workplace and their communities of influence, as well as in communicating with the workforce on these issues and attempting to impact behavior.