It is impossible to avoid the constant barrage of information on Impeachment that is available these days. It is the lead story in the news, and it is often the most discussed item that your friends (and sometimes co-workers) want to share their opinions about.
How do you deal with such a divisive topic, where not only do you have the opportunity to offend others, you also may find yourself feeling attacked and offended?
While this is perhaps the most explosive topic to hit the workplace in recent memory, it is not the first topic that has had the opportunity to be divisive – and it will not be the last.
In the interest of promoting a little holiday cheer and civility, I decided to share with you some thoughts about how to deal with subjects that fall into the broad category of ‘stuff you should not talk about’.
First of all, I need to state the obvious; as a leader you should avoid sharing your opinions on controversial topics that have such a possibility to divide and offend. I am not asking you to shy away from defending your values, I am just asking that you avoid characterizing the promotion of your political views under the guise of defending your values.
How should you handle co workers that are arguing ‘impeachment’ at work?
Now, let’s assume that you happen upon a dialogue between two co-workers that obviously disagree on the question of whether President Trump should be impeached. How should you handle this situation? First of all, while we can certainly request that employees NOT discuss politics at work, this does not guarantee that it will not happen.
If you find that employees have (or are) transgressing this request you must first remind them of why you made the request in the first place. If possible, tie the request to your stated company values and show how the conversation transgresses those values.
Second, you could ask them why they felt the need to have the discussion knowing that it was such a divisive topic. In many cases, the two individuals may not be offending each other and they may use that as a defense. However, if they are having the conversation where any other person could be expected to overhear then they are involving other team members whether they meant to or not. It does not matter if those team members claim they were not offended. Many individuals will claim publicly that they were not offended because they do not want to engage in what they feel is hostility or conflict. Conversations that are divisive have the possibility of lowering team trust and rapport, leading to a long term negative impact in productivity and engagement.
What if the two team members are not arguing – they agree?
In many cases, the two individuals may not be offending each other and they may use that as a defense. However, if they are having the conversation where any other person could be expected to overhear then they are involving other team members whether they meant to or not. It does not matter if those team members claim they were not offended. Many individuals will claim publicly that they were not offended because they do not want to engage in what they feel is hostility or conflict.
How to discuss impeachment with family members and friends of differing views.
It is a sad state of affairs that we have become so divided that many people will actively avoid even speaking with people that they disagree with politically. And not just about politics, we often avoiding speaking with them at all. We get our news from different sources, and we tend to only speak with those with whom we agree. In this way our opinions are reinforced, and we never have new information introduced that may challenge our assumptions. It is no wonder that we continue to become more and more politically polarized.
Surveys show that about half of us find political conversations frustrating and stressful. The other half find them interesting and stimulating.
But what if I told you that there was a way to make every political conversation you have with your friends and family interesting and stimulating? Not just for you – for them as well. Impossible you say? Not really, you just have to give up your need to be right.
Here is how you can talk about almost anything with almost anyone without offending them (this is for outside the work environment ONLY):
- As a person shares their opinion on a subject with you, actively Listen to what they are saying. Listen to UNDERSTAND what they are saying. Too often we listen first for what we disagree with. Then we ‘pounce’ to show the other person how wrong they are.
- Ask really good Questions to draw out their point of view. Do not ask questions to prove they are wrong. Ask questions about things they may have brought up that you were not aware of.
- Express Empathy with what they are saying to you. This does not require you agree with them. You merely could say something like “I can see that this is very upsetting to you”.
- Clarify what you feel the person’s main points are. Make sure you do not introduce your judgment as you do this.
In many cases, after a conversation like this you will find that the emotional intensity person you are speaking to starts to decrease. They may in turn ask you what you think. If they do, maintain your calm and share ONE differing view that you have and then go back to asking them their thoughts.
Can discussing impeachment make you a better leader?
While maintaining emotional calm in a whirlwind of other people’s emotion is really hard, isn’t that what makes a leader more effective? Isn’t the ability to encourage and hear differing views what makes a leader effective?
Well then yes – discussing impeachment with family and friends CAN make you a better leader. As long as you give up the need to be right. It’s a challenge to be sure.
I have found that reasonable people can disagree on almost everything and maintain a healthy relationship with one another – as long as we don’t start to impugn the moral character and intentions of those we disagree with.
How about you? Are you up to the challenge?