Employer loyalty and workplace culture take a back seat amid pandemic

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“Workplace culture” becomes an oxymoron.

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It is a term used by institutions that insist that they operate differently; that they stand out from others. But employees often find their work repetitive and dispassionate. It’s the thing you do for a living, not your reason for being.

It was the best of times.

COVID-19 has caused a quiet employee revolution pushing to reframe the way work is done. Remote work and a detachment from the micromanagement of the employer are expected terms of engagement. These are good things because employee empowerment is on the rise.

But, the sneaky underbelly that seems to be crawling is the slow decline of workplace culture. Workplace culture during the pandemic mattered little or nothing.

The pandemic has also introduced a curious phenomenon where employees are quick to publicly denounce bad actors, online, rather than availing themselves of internal channels. The notion of being “brand loyal” is disappearing or has been entirely defeated in some companies.

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Take for example the recent publication of an e-mail sent by Wayne Pankratz, director of the franchise of Applebee. With the headline “why rising gas is good for hiring,” Pankratz wrote to other Apple Central LLC employees, “most of our employees and potential employees live paycheck to paycheck pay”. and “Any increase in gasoline prices reduces their disposable income. As inflation continues to climb and gas prices continue to rise, this means employees will need to work longer hours to maintain their current standard of living.

Pankratz also noted that the company is no longer “competing with the government for hiring” as stimulus checks and unemployment have fallen in the United States. spend. This will force people back into the labor market.

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Ironically, Pankratz signed off saying, “Most importantly, have the culture and environment that will draw people in.”

The email has been publicly disclosed.

According to Vice News, Pankratz’s leaked email prompted a “massive resignation” from an Applebee in Kansas.

Business Insider reported that Applebee’s chief operating officer said, “The individual was terminated by the franchisee who owns and operates the restaurants in this market.”

The obvious lesson here is that all employees of all backgrounds and levels should consider “internal” emails as public. We live in a society where wrongdoers will be held accountable, most often first in the court of public opinion. If that email hadn’t been leaked, Pankratz might still be employed.

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The email leak itself indicates a dramatic shift in workplace culture. Dirty laundry will be aired. The skeletons will be taken out of their cupboards.

While the email was toxic and created legal liability, some would also argue that the leak of it was insubordinate by the leaker.

Clearly, the pandemic has pushed employer loyalty and workplace culture into the background as a workers’ revolution takes the wheel.

Employers must draw a fine line between insisting on fairness and encouraging transparency.

Employers are clearly facing a crisis when it comes to creating new work cultures after the pandemic, rising inflation rates and supply chain disruption.

Organizations must take steps to carefully and conscientiously build a work culture that is not window dressing. You have to believe in it, it must be the essence of your organization, and it cannot be an oxymoron.

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Lawyer Sunira Chaudhri is a partner at Workly Law. Photo by Fourni /labor law

On to your questions for this week:

Q. I’ve been in sales for five years and have always received positive performance reviews. This winter I received a negative performance review that I disagreed with and consulted with HR. I have now been fired. Can my negative performance review that I disagreed with be used against me to reduce my severance pay?

A. If you were not terminated for cause, performance should not affect the length of your notice period. Technically, it doesn’t matter how well you perform in your role, as it’s not a legally considered factor in terms of how long it will take you to get a new job. However, if you believe you have received a negative performance review in anticipation of your dismissal, this may be a matter to consider seeking legal advice in addition to having your severance package reviewed. Seek advice before signing anything.

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Q. I am a small employer re-opening our offices in May. Although most of our employees are vaccinated, I know of at least two who are not. What steps should I take before they return?

A. As a private employer, how you decide to handle the return to work as well as whether or not to implement a vaccination mandate is largely up to you. Now that vaccination mandates have dropped across most of the country, you can determine whether or not vaccination is essential for returning to work. If you believe vaccination is necessary to provide a safe work environment, you can communicate this to all of your staff, including the two employees who are not vaccinated. You may also consider allowing weekly testing and masking measures in the workplace to limit risk.

Do you have a workplace question? Maybe I can help! Email me at [email protected] and your question may be featured in a future column.

The above is general information only and should not be considered legal advice.

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