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We Can’t Talk About That at Work!

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We Can’t Talk About That at Work!

How to Talk About Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Bold conversations you think you should avoid can make a positive contribution to your workplace.

Editorial Rating



  • Controversial
  • Applicable
  • For Beginners


In a time of increased polarization, managers might worry about the impact of disruptive political conversations at work. Diversity consultant Mary-Frances Winters says that employers should encourage, not discourage, these interactions. Winters believes that “bold, inclusive conversations” can have a positive impact on the workplace environment and employee engagement. To help things turn out that way, she provides guidance, with examples, on how to conduct such discussions. She offers a handy guide to potentially abrasive comments and phrases that various groups might find offensive. Her advice on quelling divisiveness in the workplace will be useful for supervisors, HR professionals and any employees interested in communicating more effectively with their co-workers.  


Strive to create a workplace with an “inclusive culture” to foster higher employee engagement.

Employers have traditionally discouraged conversations about sensitive topics in the workplace. However, employees will discuss these subjects anyway and are already discussing them, so managers should harness those conversations and encourage employees to hold them in positive, constructive ways.  

Difficult topics tend to inspire insular responses and people naturally bring their reactions and opinions to work. When they can express these views without penalty in an atmosphere of respect and trust, they perform better. When a company says nothing about tough topics like, for example, prejudice against particular groups or sexual harassment, the silence communicates indifference. When a leader or an organization opens a dialogue, the result can be cathartic. 

“Bold, inclusive conversations” can help improve employee engagement.

Before you encourage bold, inclusive conversations in your workplace, prepare yourself. First, think through you cultural identity, so you understand and accept how you perceive and react to the world around you.


About the Author

Consultant and strategist Mary-Frances Winters, is founder and president of The Winters Group and has advised organizations globally on diversity and inclusion for more than 30 years. 

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