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SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares why certain topics shouldn't be discussed at work and how you can create more unity in your workplace.
My company just instituted policy against talking about religion at work. I am bothered by this and don’t feel comfortable being told I can’t talk about such a big part of my life and who I am at work. I’m actually feeling a little discriminated against because of my religion and because my views aren’t shared by some of my co-workers, I have to be censored. Do you think this policy is necessary or right? Are there some topics that should be banned at work?
Gallup did a study in 2015 where they found that only 32 percent of workers were engaged in their jobs and committed to their work. The study showed 51 percent were killing time and doing the bare minimum to avoid getting fired and 17 percent were totally disengaged and deserved to be fired immediately.
This means employers today are already fighting a battle for the focus and attention they are paying for. They need employees who are focused on work and not distracting others.
I do agree with the policy to limit certain conversation topics at work. There are some topics that make other people feel uncomfortable, awkward, disrespected, offended or excluded. These topics are extremely distracting and can also negatively affect corporate culture.
The office, unlike private homes or social venues, is a place where everyone is being paid for their time and attention, and because of this, it’s important to have everyone’s focus on the tasks at hand. It’s also important that everyone feels safe, respected and honored where they work. Businesses today must avoid letting divisive political views, differing religious beliefs and other hot topics divide co-workers and create conflict. These issues are already creating a divide in our country and letting this atmosphere seep into the workplace can create problems.
Here are some topics that should never be discussed at work and why:
1. Any political topic at all
Right now, there is a huge political divide in our country and tempers can flare because everyone feels passionate about their position. Discussing civil rights, Black Lives Matter, same-sex marriage, legalizing drugs, abortion, the national debt, Supreme Court nominations, vaccinations, the president, or any other topic covered on the news, can create conflict, hostility and confrontation.
Your employer is trying to create a fear-free workplace where everyone feels safe and can focus on their jobs. These topics can be volatile and distracting as they light fires in the office that are hard to put out. It would be best if your co-workers had no idea which way your political views leaned. If someone starts a political conversation or makes a comment about their personal views, let them know you prefer to keep yours personal since these conversations can be divisive.
These days, many people have strong feelings either for or against organized religion. Some people choose to not participate in organized religion and they may be passionate and vocal about their beliefs, or even disrespectful. On the other hand, religious people are also passionate about their faith and consider their religion a core part of who they are. Discussing anything to do with religion can create conflict, hurt feelings and discord at work. Avoid negative comments or trying to persuade others to believe what you believe. It’s best to leave all church-based conversations to after hours.
3. Personal relationships or your dating life
If you are having troubles at home or dating drama find a friend, coach or counselor to talk to. Your co-workers are not your therapist and should not be expected to support you through your relationships. Your life outside the office, your dating life, your family, and your personal choices are best not brought to work. If you want to meet a co-worker outside the office, that’s fine, but consider keeping those personal conversations for when you are off the clock. Your employer is paying for your time and attention; honor that by not distracting co-workers with personal issues.
4. Money troubles or health problems
Again, your co-workers are not there to counsel or console you. If you are struggling, scared or sick, you may need a doctor, therapist or counselor to talk to. Your co-workers don’t need to know the details of your health or money problems. It’s not that your boss and co-workers don’t care, they do. They just can’t spend work hours talking about or being distracted by these issues. If you believe a health concern may affect your ability to do your job, discuss it with a supervisor or human resources manager to assess your options.
5. Beliefs related to new age, alternative healing
It is fine that you believe in the healing powers of certain rocks and crystals and have them on your desk, and you organize the feng shui of your office, or spend your breaks in vipassana meditation, but it’s best to avoid talking about this stuff if it distracts your co-workers while on the clock. You might ask if they would be open to hearing about your healing approach outside the office, but do not spend work hours telling them all about it.
Employers know a positive corporate culture where people feel respected and safe affect their bottom line. To create that positive corporate culture they need unity and teamwork to happen. To have unity and teamwork they need less conflict, confrontation and discord.
So, banning conversation topics that create discord makes sense. Instead of being bothered by this policy, I recommend you get on board and even think of other ways to create more unity, respect and inclusivity at work. How can you reach out to make people who are different from you feel more accepted? The employee that solves more problems than he or she creates, is the one who will rise to the top every time.
You can do this.
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