Arthur W. Page Society

10/20/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/20/2020 08:46

Keeping Discourse Civil in the Workplace

As the United States general election approaches and civil discourse becomes even more polarized, senior communicators must plan how their enterprises will navigate difficult discussions in the workplace. It is in organizations' best interest to acknowledge and prepare for tough conversations that employees will be facing in early November. As the pandemic has pushed more of our interactions online, where one in six Americans has reported experiencing harassment over a political opinion, creating a safe space and a framework to have these conversations is critical.

Bob Feldman of ICF Next, who recently wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review, hosted a Page Conversation on the topic. Here are some takeaways from Bob's article and the member discussion:

  1. The only thing certain is uncertainty. How are companies working to ensure a comfortable work environment with all of this uncertainty? Though November 3rd will be a flashpoint date, organizations engaging in challenging conversations is now an expectation. This year has shown that this is another area for CEOs to lead. Set the tone from the top, showing empathy and reinforcing the values of the organization.

  2. Workplaces are where we all meet. People tend to live in their own information bubbles. The workplace is one of the only places where people will encounter diversity of thought. It is important that the workplace should be a place of listening, learning and respect. Assume the person you are speaking with does not share your political views.

  3. A long history of election anxieties. This country has a long history of election night anxieties (e.g. Kennedy/Nixon 1960, Bush/Gore 2000) but today people are more tribal, more isolated and more interested in receiving information that validates their belief system. This helps drive greater polarization.

  4. Balancing bravery with business goals. Companies that have a large global presence are reconciling what it means to do the right thing without ostracizing a whole population of stakeholders. Looking to authenticity as a guide is essential.

  5. Everyone is trying to figure this out. Nobody has the answers. The goal is not to censor these conversations; it is to facilitate a healthy and safe discussion through a framework. Click through to the article to see recommendations taken from Dialogue Project research that can help organizations guide their employees during a charged event.

Thanks to Bob Feldman, Vice Chair of ICF Next and Founder of The Dialogue Project for moderating, and to Jano Cabrera, CCO of General Mills and Linda Rutherford, SVP & CCO of Southwest Airlines for contributing to the discussion.