Historically, it was taboo to discuss politics in the workplace. Instead, Americans would play it safe and discuss sports. The biggest conflict would be which team was favored over the other. It all changed this weekend when football couldn’t be discussed without talking about political positions.
On Friday, during a campaign rally for U.S. Senator Luther Strange President Trump suggested that the NFL should fire players who protest by kneeling during the national anthem.
This caused a tweet storm between players, owners and President Trump and ultimately sparked an increase of protests. The protest spread into the sports of baseball and basketball this weekend for the first time.
Trump suggests that, “this has nothing to do with race…this has to do with respect for our country.” On the other side of the conversation, the athletes feel that they are standing together in non-violent protest about social injustice. Many who knelt say they support the military, consider themselves patriots, and are exercising their right to free speech.
The lack of productive discussion around this topic is building the divide between people and reinforcing us/them thinking. As the conversation spills into our work environments, employers are struggling with how to respond. In general, we have not taught our employees how to talk about differences in a respectful and productive way. We don’t provide many opportunities to share stories and reach understanding which compounds the divide in the workplace.
Now is the time to have productive discussions around the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion. It starts with genuine curiosity and suspension of your own perspective to explore someone else’s.
A few questions to start the conversation:
- What is your response to current events surrounding the athletes’ actions?
- Why do you hold that perspective?
- What experiences have you had in your life that contribute to how you think about this issue?
- How do you feel about what is being said and done by all parties?
- What information would you like to gain to understand the situation better?