Nov 2, 2020 | Atlanta, GA
As a dynamic and diverse institution, we respect various perspectives and opinions. As employees within the University System of Georgia (USG), we are held to the highest ethical and professional standards of conduct within the workplace. Under Section 8.2.18 of the USG Personnel Conduct, specifically the Ethics Policy, employees are required to be responsible for their individual actions. Employees are also required to adhere to the USG’s Statement of Core Values – Integrity, Excellence, Accountability, and Respect.
With Election Day nearing, it is natural to expect that political conversations will find their way into the workplace. It may start as a friendly joke in a virtual meeting. Or it may be a dismissive jab at the end of a conversation. No matter how they begin, we must remember USG’s core values as we initiate or participate in these exchanges.
Georgia Tech Human Resources (GTHR) wants to help lay the groundwork for healthy, respectful conversations at work that embrace differences of opinion:
Behaviors that Support Dialogue1:
- Listen to understand.
- It is important to remember active listening skills in any dialogue, particularly when there is a difference of opinion. Focus on listening to what your colleague is saying and then repeat their opinion — in your own words — back to them in a manner that avoids passing judgment.
- Share your story.
- Be aware of assumptions and stereotypes.
- We all have biases that alter our reactions to certain situations. It is important to remember that we sometimes tend to judge people based on their behavior, forgetting about situational circumstances that could be affecting that behavior. Listen to your colleague, focusing in on their unique situation and what could be happening to produce their behaviors.
- Be open to differing opinions and experiences.
- Differing opinions are the foundation for creativity and innovation. Without them, the workplace would be stagnant and dull. Appreciate your colleague for who they are and notice how your differing opinions can create change that’s best for both of you. Employees can listen to our Radical Candor Interruptions podcast and learn how to share differences more effectively.
- Acknowledge places of agreement.
- While you and your colleague may disagree on one aspect of your discussion, you may both agree on the common goal you are hoping to achieve. Take a moment to compartmentalize your discussion, building on areas of agreement that could help lead to greater understanding.
- Maintain professional standards while discussing varying opinions.
- At Georgia Tech, we value respecting others and ourselves, leveraging diversity of thought in all aspects of the employee experience. We work to ensure that Georgia Tech is a positive work environment for all. If an employee feels a difference in opinion has caused an issue too large for them to handle, Georgia Tech Employee Relations is ready to assist.
- LinkedIn Learning: Communicating through Disagreement
- Managing National Political Discussions at Work
- Difficult Situations: Solutions for Managers course
- How to Disagree Productively and Find Common Ground – TED Talk by Julia Dhar
- 5 tips for creating civil discourse in an era of polarization – Short article by Charles Camosy (2012) in the Seattle Times
- How to keep civil discourse civilized – Short article by Stevie Ray (2020) in The Business Journals
- Civil Discourse in an Era of Polarization – Short article by Jackson Rainer (2019) in Next Avenue
GTHR is here to assist all employees experiencing any challenges. For help:
- Talk with your manager.
- Reach out to your HR Business Partner/representative.
- Connect with GTHR Employee Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staff and faculty may also find support through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at hwb.gatech.edu/eap.
1Adapted from Five College Intergroup Dialogue Program; Faculty, Staff, and Student Dialogue.