President Trump's January 27 executive order placing a 90-day ban on travel from seven countries caused ripples throughout the business community. Although the original executive order was halted by court action and replaced with a new, narrower order on March 6, which was blocked by two federal judges as of March 15, some uncertainty persists among non-citizen workers, their families and their employers. Despite this uncertainty, it's up to business owners to lead with confidence and support employees in times of change.
The original executive order concerned businesses and their employees because it denied entry to new immigrants, and impacted those with green cards and certain visas. Although Administration officials subsequently clarified some language, it wasn't enough for some employers and workers.
Google recalled workers back to the United States, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg. According to The Guardian, Amazon and Microsoft went so far as to participate in legal action challenging the ban. Those were just a few of the business reactions.
Leading in Times of Change
As a business leader, your job is to ensure that the company's business goes on productively—despite what happens in Washington.
To do that, it helps to allay any employee's concerns about feeling unwelcome or not being able to get back in the country. During these times of change, it's up to you to provide leadership to help your team feel supported and keep them productive.
Here are four important things that you as a business leader can do to lead your team with confidence and help them feel comfortable in the current policy environment:
1. Listen first.
Recognize that employees may react emotionally, whether their fears are well founded or not. Don't make light of their concerns or assume there's nothing to worry about just because you may not be worried. After all, the uncertainty and questions belong to the employee, not to you. Encourage them to talk openly—and listen with a sympathetic ear.
“In general, people are nervous that if they leave they may not be able to get back in. If people don't feel welcome here, they won't stay in the country," said Rohit Arora, CEO of New York-based Biz2Credit, an online marketplace for small-business funding. “They won't start businesses here. And we risk driving away people who have already started successful companies."
Arora says employers may want to offer this piece of advice to employees: "Don’t panic. Check all the boxes that are necessary when traveling. If you are here legally, you are in a sound position, but brace for any changes on your return."
2. Arm yourself with knowledge.
Read the executive order. This is one of those cases where you should consider consulting with legal counsel or your human resources department, too. Understand the legal implications of this executive order—what it does and does not cover, and any gray areas.
Remember, knowledge can bring confidence. The more confident you can sound, the more confident your employees may feel.
For instance, let's say an employee is worried about not being able to renew his or her visa, and asks you for your insight. If your only answer is, “Um, I'm not sure what it covers," how can you inspire confidence? Compare that with being able to say, “The order doesn't apply to situation X, according to our legal counsel."
At the same time you can't know everything in these situations. So if you've investigated and you still are unsure, it's better to say so.
3. After investigating, separate fact from fear.
Remind people, “Here's what we know." Sometimes people jump to conclusions based on incomplete information or visceral emotional responses. With all the rhetoric and speculation on social media, workers may be worrying unnecessarily about what the future may or may not bring. Separate facts from rumor and emotion to help reassure them.
4. Express your company's support.
Just knowing that your company is in their corner may help make workers and their families feel more secure. You may not be able to guarantee the outcome, but you can certainly provide support.
“The manager's message should be, the employee is not alone," says John Yoest, clinical assistant professor of management at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. "The executive order has a delayed effective date, which will enable managers to prepare and to over-communicate. The human resource department or the small-business owner should reassure and promise support to any employee and his or her family while on travel."
If you do these things, you may be better positioned to lead your team with confidence despite any shifting policies in Washington.
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