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‘Peoples’ actions speak to the character and reputations of their employers,’ expert says

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Experts from Northwestern University are available to comment on the role organizations play during times of political turmoil as companies react by firing employees who were found to have taken part in the Capitol riots on Jan. 6.

Brayden King is a professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management. He can be reached by contacting Molly Lynch at 773-505-9719 or molly@lynchgrouponline.com.

Quote from Professor King
“Peoples’ actions speak to the character and reputations of their employers. When companies learn that one of their employees participated in the insurrection at the capitol, they certainly worry about what tolerating that sort of behavior will say about them. Is this the sort of workplace that tolerates roundly criticized behavior? Companies’ quick actions to fire their employees is a proactive attempt to maintain their reputation during a time of political unrest when many are concerned that democratic norms are being undermined.

“Moreover, many companies find themselves in a position of taking a leadership stance in articulating what sorts of political activities ought not to be considered legitimate. By expelling employees from their companies, these organizations not only signal an essential part of their own character but they indicate to the nation/world where the boundaries are for acceptable political expression.”

Nicholas A. Pearce is a clinical professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management. He can be reached by contacting Molly Lynch at 773-505-9719 or molly@lynchgrouponline.com.

Quote from Professor Pearce
“Firing people whose conduct violates workplace norms/standards should not be seen as equivalent to creating inclusive workplaces. In many cases, such firings are actually performative reactions to shield the company leadership from the perception that they're harboring domestic terrorists. The much harder work is auditing and sustainably transforming systems that reproduce disproportionately unjust, inequitable outcomes for people of color.”­ 

Danielle Bell is an assistant professor at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Her area of expertise is communications and branding, and she specializes efforts related to equity, inclusion, women in the workplace and BIPOC. She can be reached at danielle.bell@northwestern.edu.

Quote from Professor Bell
"Companies now understand the importance – the moral rightness, if you will – of speaking out in support of their employees, customers and other stakeholders impacted by systemic injustices in this country. When an employee is outed on social media for doing the very thing a company stands against – the company’s reputation is on the line and their next steps are now publicly scrutinized. Companies firing employees – especially at-will employees – for any reason or no reason at all is not new. What’s new is that what typically gets handled in private by HR is now being played out on social media for everyone to see."