How do you manage potential liability in convos (and difficult convos in general!) raised in slack channels and the like?

Hi friends–

My company is in very early stages of starting Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. Our CEO is very risk-averse and carries a lot of fears about liabilities to the company. We have a few identity-based Slack channels, he interprets those channels as low-level ERGs, and was alarmed by a lack of heavy process to mitigate risks from (worst-case-scenario) potential conversations in those channels.

While I think the chance for his fears coming to fruition is quite low, I am interested in how others are handling difficult conversations/problematic comments raised in Slack and similar channels. We (HR) don’t want to over-monitor Slack channels or not give employees a safe space to speak their mind. We also want to keep senior leadership happy with our level of “conservative action” in order to prevent any possibility of a “shut it all down!” situation.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Hi!

I’ll start this answer with the caveat of - “I’m not a legal expert” and…

If you think about it, Slack is essentially just another type of communication channel - it’s just (quite often) more visible. Do you have rigorous processes for managing these potential “worst case scenarios” in other aspects of your business? If you do, the process for managing these instances in Slack channels should be consistent with the approach in other aspects of the company.

Have you set a ‘code of conduct’ or similar for the Slack channels as a way of setting expectations about what is acceptable? With shared understanding of how to engage and use those channels as a discussion forum, the moments where you might need to step in are seen less as ‘policing’ or overbearing and more to upholding the spirit and safety of those channels. This could potentially be done in partnership with ERG leaders who could perform the role of point person/ liaison and curator of these channels alongside HR/Leadership.

The difficult conversations are often the ones that offer the biggest learning opportunities. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable or saying the wrong thing provides an opportunity for people to learn more about the views and experience of others more so than if people don’t say anything at all. So… unless they violate the code of conduct, there’s often merit in letting those tough conversations play out.

The most successful ERGs are those that leadership are plugged into and supportive of. Is there a way that your leadership could engage directly with the ERGs in a way that helps to build the community and demonstrate organisational support?

Hope that helps!

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