With the elections for the US president in November 2016 fresh in our memory let’s look at how to deal with debate in the workplace.
Several topics can spark debate, from politics to religion to parenting and sports. What most of the topics that are debated vigorously have in common is that they are usually not work-related. Work related debate can be and often will be healthy. The dynamic tension between various professionals will encourage all to put on their best performance to ensure their part of the issue will be known and be kept in mind when decisions are taken.
The enthusiastic Monday morning quarterbacking that happens in so many companies can also be healthy as it creates an atmosphere of common interest.
Most other debates have a tendency to turn into an exchange of thoughts that may offend some or all of the participants and seldom lead to a successful change in mind of anyone. Over the course of my career I have not seen anyone after a hot debate about religion changing their mind and their religion, nor have I seen a positive impact from the shouting matches about politics in the workplace.
So is there no place for debate in the workplace? Managing a prohibition on debate in the workplace is hard to imagine, but when tempers get hot it is useful to remind people that no matter what religion, political view, sports team or parenting philosophy you support, you are all here to work on the goals of the company. Anything you do or say that is not helpful to accomplish that goal will limit your usefulness and potentially shorten your career. It is good to know where people come from, it is useful to know each other’s religion so you can avoid potential conflicts. A frank exchange of views and explanation of topics can be useful to understand better why people react the way they do, but that is where the debates and exchanges of views should stop.
The Harvard Business Review has published a great article about it recently, read it HERE