The Impact of Outrage Culture

Outrage Culture: How Does it Impact Major Projects? What Can Be Done?

Based on present day data, we check our phones an average of 2,617 times per day. We connect with loved ones and share our photos, videos, and lives with others around the world. We also share our opinions, interests, current events, frustrations, and passions.

Outrage culture is a general description of the current cultural environment in which individuals feel excessively frightened or angry about a litany of developments without an understanding of the actual hazard or context of these developments. The globalization of a not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) view of new developments has often been driven by this phenomenon. This article will be addressing the present-day pulse of vocalized outrage around stakeholder engagement and look at examples with both positive and negative outcomes. Conflict is often a natural result of engagement and can be heightened by a passionate concern for a particular issue. Solutions are often only possible which the conflict is acknowledged and dealt with transparently.

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Origins of Outrage in Relations to Industrial Activities

There seems to be a handful of variables that lead to the culture of outrage which is currently facing proponents of new projects:

   1      People are deeply connected to current international events through social media.

   2     A growing perception that there is a lack of the public’s best interest by major companies and global leaders.

   3     The public (stakeholders) not feeling heard or trusted by these project organizers/leaders.

   4     Rejection of subject matter expert’s warnings and concerns, which could assist in alleviating outrage, disaster and identifying better procedures to ensure safety and the public’s best interest.

   5     New communication technologies which have enabled the rapid dissemination of information to large audiences of people.

Often outrage is a gradual, unseen process, carried out by a series of small contributing factors. This very subtle neglect, at times, could lead to negative reputations and public retaliation. There was approximately $118 billion dollar lost by the energy industry in North America between 2008-2014 due to non-technical delays, often caused by outrage/media coverage concerned by the looming risk and potential disaster caused by these projects. These projects can range from pipelines, wind farms, solar energy, and everything in between.

Examples of Different Outcomes for Industrial Projects Facing Outrage

Negative Outcome: A group of residents, including two city council members, chained themselves to a group of trees set to be cut down delaying a project in British Columbia by an entire day. The project was set to remove 50-100 trees to make way for an auxiliary spillway for a nearby dam, in the event of future flooding. Those that stayed chained when the construction crews arrived to begin work were ticketed and a few even arrested later in the day. 

 Source  Chek News

Source Chek News

Positive Outcome: When a new road project in Texas called for a 100-year-old Oak tree to be cut down there was an outcry by many community members. After identifying the concern, the local government worked with community members to find a better solution. Based on the feedback they received, city leaders voted to relocate the tree all together roughly 1,500 feet away. The initial outrage subsided and no major incidents occurred. (Source: Tree Hugger)

 Neighborhood tree being relocated in League City.

Neighborhood tree being relocated in League City.

Positive Outcome: Concerns from two farm villages in West Norfolk, UK were identified by the proponent of a proposed wind farm about the impact of construction traffic on residential roadways. The developers addressed these concerns and rerouted their plans to a single entrance, away from the residential roadways. The initial outrage subsided and no major incidents occurred. (Source: Lynn News)

 Photo by KIRK SPEER, THE GAZETTE

Photo by KIRK SPEER, THE GAZETTE

Addressing Stakeholder Outrage

Successfully addressing stakeholder outrage can build a rapport of trust and community involvement, not just for the present project, but also for projects to come and for the lifecycle of the current project. This often involves identifying and addressing concerns quickly, and better managing relationships by being accountable and transparent when engaging with concerned stakeholders.

Using IRIS, organizations are better able to manage stakeholder outrage by providing accountability, transparency and long-term consistency (throughout the lifetime of the project, regardless of staffing changes) to their engagement efforts.

To find out how IRIS can help your company or organization better manage stakeholder engagement, call or send us a message and a Sunexo representative will assist to find the solutions that work for you or to schedule a demonstration.

Kristen Riley