Hot topic: Do business boycotts risk dividing the workplace? Part two

Boycotting countries for moral or political reasons is nothing new, yet this decision may punish employees who have no control over where they are born.

Following the instigation of a Russian invasion of Ukraine by president Putin, many organisations vowed to pull out of the Russian market, but do boycotts lead to a rise in conflict and division in the workplace rather than an end to injustice?

Read part one of this hot topic, featuring opinions from Amina Folarin and Shakil Butt, here.

Yetunde Hofmann, founder and director, Solaris Executive Leadership Development

This is where love-based leadership must come to the fore. The most important thing is to move quickly, listening to what your people want and why. If you decide to take a stance, then explain your reasons why. Transparently.

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It is often at times like this that people take sides – where one nation may be seen and derided as the bad guy and the other not.  This can then ripple down into how team members behave and respond to each other.

Now more than ever should we come from a place of love. Everyone is human. An employee or colleague is not their president or their government. Encourage compassion, kindness and love – everyone – no matter who they are or where they are from, matters.


David Liddle, CEO, The TCM Group

If your organisation is taking a view or position about boycotting or divesting from Russia in the wake of the invasion, it needs to be very clear that it is not personal, or about any particular group of individuals – it’s about Russia’s action as a political power over a sovereign country. 

If the messaging feels like it’s about the Russians or Belarusians as a people, then any debate in the organisation is likely to become sour and toxic very quickly. The last thing we want to do at a time when many people are already feeling anxious and upset, is to create conditions where employees feel isolated or where incivility, anger and fear is allowed to take hold.

This is a great opportunity to demonstrate that conflict doesn’t have to be destructive and harmful, it can be constructive and transformational – when it is handled well – with compassion and care.


This article was first published in the March/April 2022 issue of HR magazine. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.