Many employers like to advertise their healthy and inclusive work culture. But not all live up to their own hype, as a recent spate of public announcements shows. A chemistry professor in the UK announced on his now-deleted Twitter account that he was leaving his job because of a biased and marginalized institutional culture; over at a chemical-related brewery, former Brewdog employees posted an open letter claiming they were working in a culture of fear. Prospective employers were also accused: The chemist Lisa Jones withdrew from concerns about the commitment of the university for diversity, equality and inclusion for a position at UNC Chapel Hill in the USA.
Public criticism of a previous, current or future employer is often seen as a risky career move. It could affect your ability to get a job in the future as potential employers wonder if you also uncover their shortcomings. Criticism that goes too far into ranting, settling bills or personal attacks appears unprofessional; In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to tell if you’ve crossed that line. These fears make it difficult for an employee to raise valid concerns – a side effect that some employers may be grateful for.
But it still manages to spread a bad name. Employees who do not want to publicly associate their name with criticism can rate their employer semi-anonymously on websites such as Glassdoor (although technically anonymous, these often contain enough details to find out who left a particular review, especially if it was a Assessment is for a small business or a specialized role). More often, the message travels through informal networks when people tell their friends about the reality of their working conditions. As with everything that has to do with networking, this creates inequality; the better-connected people learn which jobs to avoid, but the less-connected – such as minority groups who are more prone to exploitation or discrimination anyway – don’t get the warning.
We cannot maintain a healthy work environment unless the people in them can shout out where something has gone wrong
Some may argue that instead of making grievances public, an attempt should be made to resolve them internally. But what do you do when you’ve tried this only so that your efforts are ignored or rejected? Broader public outreach for issues is also important to address issues that are common across an industry or industry.
We cannot maintain a healthy work environment if people are unable to report bugs in it – publicly if necessary. That this is viewed as a career risk shows just how much professional culture has yet to change, as people willing to take action that will improve the workplace for everyone are assets that every employer should be proud of.