Working Effectively in a Culture that Breeds Constant Outrage

Even before the many events of 2020, employee activism was on the rise. Much was written about the way this would fundamentally impact and ultimately change the workplace.

Add in a global pandemic, massive social justice movements and the most divisive election in modern American history. All together it becomes a recipe for anything BUT strengthened employee engagement in the workplace as we roll into 2021.

Tolerance levels have worn thin. Patience is hard to find. People become outraged over seemingly the smallest things when someone handles things differently than they would.

This article from Fast Company gives a good, thorough definition of the problem AND how it impacts productivity at work. Outrage might feel good in the moment, but it is very, very short-lived. More importantly, it has serious damaging consequences for teams.

If constant outrage from employees is an issue in your workplace, take these three actions to drive employee engagement: 

Increase transparency around the issue.

Raise awareness that this is systemic. The behavior follows a pattern. Individuals may see it and feel it themselves or on their team, but because of everyone working remotely, they don’t recognize that it’s happening on a broader scale.

Educate people that the way they interact online is psychologically less risky.

This drives more bold behavior. If I don’t have to see that person in the break room in the office every day, or face to face in a meeting once a week, then I’m willing to say something on social media or over email which might be more offensive because I can feel like I’m willing to take that chance.

Emphasize the importance of EMPATHY.

It’s essential to walk in the other person’s shoes. So much of the outrage is actually driven by fear. And fear comes most often from the unknown. When we take the time to genuinely understand where the other person is coming from, it’s not as scary as we thought it was.


Betsy Winkler is a partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @betsywinkler1.