06 Apr. 2017 | Comments (0)

If you take a group of individuals in your organization and explore three factors – personalities, beliefs, and perspectives then you will naturally find many different opinions.  It’s healthy.  But, too often organizations fall short of full inclusion and its’ potential because of the poor handling of differences of opinion.  Four common inefficiencies and ‘wastes’ happen:

  1. Individuals stop sharing and/or listening to each other (just agree to disagree)
  2. Differences of opinion divert energy from higher priorities
  3. Morale issues are created
  4. Division grows with more ‘us, them, and they’ heard and seen

One can arguable say that this past Presidential election was one of the most ‘divisive and contentious’ elections in American history. We’ve heard stories of friendships dissipating, parents and kids refusing to talk to one another and yes, even potential divorces because of strong differences of opinion about the election and its’ results.  No doubt these exist in your organization too. 

Consider these research findings:

  • More than 1 in 4 employees have been negatively affected by workplace conversations they’ve had about the presidential race (APA survey).
  • A PEW report showed:
    • Women supported Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Trump by 54% to 42%
    • Mrs. Clinton won by a margin of (88% to 8%) among black voters

So, on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 our nation's 45th president will be sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.  In the days, weeks, and months that follow there will undoubtedly be statements, proposals, personnel selections, and decisions that many will have differences of opinion on.  So how inclusive will your workplace be during this transition period?  Will employees trust they can be actively involved in respectful dialog about their different beliefs or will the rumor mill, grapevine, and unofficial underground communication scream exclusion?  It presents a great litmus test for inclusion in the workplace.          

So here are six suggestions, Lou and I would like to share to help your organization move forward post-election:

  1. Always start with your organization’s values.  What principles are laid out about how employees communicate with each other; express their good faith opinions; or seek out and are receptive to various points of view?     
  2. Clarify expectations for inclusive behaviors (leaders and employees).  Remember – the standard you walk by is the standard you accept.   
  3. Seek feedback on potential blind-spots and unconscious biases.  Once they are identified provide timely feedback and take action.
  4. Stay more focused on the ‘what’ and less on the ‘who’.
  5. Actively model, coach, and teach both the giving and accepting of feedback.
  6. Select a wide variety of news sources to share in your formal communication efforts.

And, let’s not forget why inclusion is so important in business.  Research by Deloitte found inclusive teams:

  • Outperformed their peers by 80%
  • Were 1.8 times more likely to be change-ready
  • Were 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market   

Everyone wants inclusion.  Everyone expects it to be given.  But, if  lingering ‘election wounds’ continue to fester and not heal then the four wastes mentioned earlier – not communicating and generating understanding; diverting energy; declining morale; and division will grow.  These will only create resistance and ultimately hurt relationships and results.  The same is true in business.  So how well does your organization handle differences of opinion?

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  • About the Author: Brian Gareau

    Brian Gareau

    Brian Gareau is a Senior Fellow, Human Capital at The Conference Board. In this role, Brian supports the Human Capital Practice which includes The Conference Board Human Capital Exchange&tra…

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  • About the Author: Lou Roddy

    Lou Roddy

    Lou started his professional career at Caterpillar Inc., in 1974 as a logistics parts stocker at the Mossville Industrial Engine Division. Lou held several positions inside Caterpillar Inc., including…

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