Summary of We Can’t Talk About That at Work!

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  • 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 – Caucasians, African-Americans, Latinos, the disabled and women – might find offensive. getAbstract recommends her advice on quelling divisiveness in the workplace to supervisors, HR professionals and any employees interested in communicating more effectively with their co-workers.  

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.



Not So Fast

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. An employer should strive to create a workplace with an “inclusive culture” to foster higher employee engagement.

Shootings by police and attacks against police, border security conflicts, gay and transgender rights, terrorist attacks and political polarization galvanize people. Difficult topics tend to inspire “tribal” 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”

Before you encourage bold, inclusive conversations in your workplace...

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