Polarizing topics have gone from conversations in the media to personal conversations with real-life consequences. Whether they’re social or political topics, employees now have a side, and some feel strongly about these topics. Due to how common these topics and their impacts are, the conversations now occur in the workplace too.
These topics are controversial, and discussing them usually leads to intense debates or quarrels, especially if civil discourse tenets are not employed. Everyone has an opinion on why the other person’s view is wrong. Some people already have their minds set on a certain position and view every alternative view as an attack on their position.
The negativity and bickering that this discourse brings often affect workplace relationships. Although business leaders want their employees to understand and discuss world events, conversations about hot and trending events can quickly resort to conflicts and abuses.
Therefore, it is necessary to manage the kind of conversations held in the office or during work hours. Creating a harmonious business environment where no team member feels excluded is the goal of every manager.
However, we cannot expect employees not to discuss social or political matters that affect them. The objective should be to create an environment where employees can have such discussions without denigrating to insults, abuses, or worse, fights.
Achieving workplace civility requires the application of civil discourse tips, empathic communication, and professionalism. It also requires the proactive application of these tips:
Promote Respectful Discourse
The emotional connection to polarizing conversations can lead to outbursts and resentments. That is why it is important to remind employees that they’re all on the same team and, therefore, should respect one another no matter the views anyone espouses.
In the past, controversial discussions mostly occurred on the internet. The internet’s anonymity allows people to resort to abuse and insults quickly. These days, controversial conversations occur in person, in family, and office.
However, some people tend to bring the internet habit of abuse to real-life conversations, which can quickly turn a discussion into a shouting match. Business leaders must understand and teach employees that having a peaceful conversation with someone they disagree with is possible.
Although you can’t prevent employees from discussing trending topics, you can create guidelines limiting non-work discussions during work hours. Sensitive discussions are usually the trending topics; therefore, disclosing the right conversation expected in the workplace is vital.
Admittedly, this requires emotional intelligence and training on diversity to create the stage for employees to think differently and examine their manner of communication. But even in the absence of these, employees should be reminded of the relevant workplace discrimination laws and what is expected of them.
Reinforce Company Values
Every company has a set of values they expect their employees to abide by. These values include treating other members of staff with basic respect. It also involves a system depicting the behaviors and manner of engagement expected from every staff member. These guidelines aim to ensure that employees can engage in conversations of sensitive nature civilly and respectfully.
Create A Diverse And Inclusive Environment
A diverse and inclusive work environment presents a safe and open place for respectful discussions. When a company has an inclusive culture and trains its employees on diversity and inclusion, it always sets the pace for nuanced and polite conversations.
An inclusive work environment ensures that employees engage in polarizing topics respectfully and disagree politely without ruining the harmony of the workplace. To foster an inclusive work environment, you must encourage inclusive language and promote inclusive conversations while ensuring that diverse views are discussed respectfully rather than mocked or shut down.
The last few years have been challenging and tasking, with plenty of people enduring heavy financial and social burdens. Yet amidst all this, they still have to show up at work and do their best.
We can help by refraining from judging and showing empathy and kindness. Being empathic towards a colleague can appear in the form of using inclusive language, being respectful, and giving them the benefit of the doubt when they default on a task.
Promote Respectful Discourse
A business environment involves people from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, and views. Therefore there will be constant discussions and debate regarding these views, cultures, and controversial social or political topics.
Since this cannot be averted, making the work environment a place where these different opinions are tolerated and respected is necessary. Debates about polarizing topics can often be emotional and heated. A culture of trust, respect, and honesty should be created to avoid this negatively affecting work productivity.
Many companies now understand the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. They are creating programs to educate employees on being more inclusive in the workplace. These programs and educational opportunities ensure that employees maintain respect and civility despite alternative views.
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Gregory is a website manager who loves reading books, learning languages and traveling. He's always been fascinated by different cultures, and has spent years studying different languages in order to be able to communicate with people from all over the world. When he's not working or traveling, he enjoys relaxing at home with a good book.