UTM expert: companies must be vigilant about public values

Real estate agent Andrew Ciastek was fired from his RE/MAX job last week after flyers he forwarded touted ‘traditional family is best for the future of kids.’

A Mississauga management expert says the firing of a local real estate agent for distributing anti-gay flyers shows how critical it is for companies to ensure sensitive and potentially divisive views don’t get into their workplace and harm business.

“The market can really speak and say, ‘We don’t want to put our money into people or companies who don’t espouse values we hold,’” Sonia Kang, a diversity and management specialist at U of T Mississauga, said Tuesday.

Kang was referring to real estate agent Andrew Ciastek, who was fired from his RE/MAX job last week after flyers he forwarded touting “traditional family is best for the future of kids” led to complaints from Mississauga residents to the Real Estate Council of Ontario and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

While it’s difficult to control what people think and believe, any views by employees that could hurt a company’s reputation or tarnish its brand in the marketplace need to be controlled.

Kang told YourMississaugaBiz.com it’s important that companies coach their employees about separating their personal views on diversity or sexism from the views expressed when they are working.

And while companies can’t necessarily say they’re not going to hire people with certain beliefs, Kang said it is okay for them to draw a clear line when interviewing potential employees.

“If you’re going to be representing us, here are the kinds of values that we espouse collectively,” she said. “If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t work here.”

While Ciastek was fired by RE-MAX for a personal brochure, Kang said it’s important for a company to be transparent and clear by expressing their values everywhere.

“Make them apparent on your company’s website, talk about them during hiring and recruitment,” she said. “So that people who don’t share those kinds of values can self-select themselves out.”

Doing so can help avoid the trap of discovering an employee expressing contradictory views seemingly out of nowhere.

Kang said companies or franchises like RE/MAX, which relies on individual contractors, do have less control as units are run more like small businesses. “At the same time, it’s still important you know the values of the larger company you’re supposed to be representing,” she said.

Businesses that fail to be proactive about this and make sure their employees are also on board don’t just lose customers, they can also drive away top talent. “People who are really creative and innovative might shy away from a company that doesn’t espouse the same values such as diversity and inclusion,” Kang said.

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