Do it right: Dealing with protests

As the Speaker falls victim to a high profile protest, how should you deal with protests in the workplace?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Be prepared. The whistles and drums come out for countless causes these days, from animals to the environment. Be conscious of any activities that may provoke.

Hear them out. Trying to extend your sewage plant into a village is bound to cause uproar, so organise a forum in which pressure groups, local council and residents can present their argument. Don't dictate, negotiate.

Strike a balance. You have to protect stakeholders without exposing them to risk. Or appearing weak. E-On, for example, is facing protests about its Kingsnorth power plant. It has publicly accepted people's right to protest, while stating its commitment to serving its customers.

Examine your processes. Most high-street clothes retailers are being praised for ethical improvements. But not Primark: the Panorama sweatshop controversy caused its reputation to plummet - altogether a costly mistake.

Think before you sue. The McLibel case cost McDonald's millions, and made heroes of the couple who challenged it. Don't be a corporate ogre.

Draw the line. If you find yourself dealing with irrational protestors, stand up to them. Calling the police won't harm your reputation if the protestors have overstepped the mark.

Protect your suppliers. If you receive threats, associates need assurance that they won't come home to find their partner has been kidnapped.

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