April 17-23, 2023 is the 6th annual National Week of Conversation, where thousands of Americans will join together to help bridge the divide between Americans by having conversations despite differences. To learn more and join an event, click here.
Covid upended workplace cultures around the world. For organizations that could allow employees to work remotely, work practice shifted with incredible speed. Now that social distancing is no longer required, many offices are returning to pre-pandemic in person expectations while some have decided to let go of their office space and yet other organizations have chosen a hybrid model that has employees in the office some of the time but also working remotely.
Work culture disruption has created valuable learnings and some new challenges that organizational leaders must navigate. For example:
·How does one develop a great remote or hybrid work culture?
·How does one even create a great traditional work culture when organizations are faced with ongoing adaptation due to shifts in the work environment and other societal factors such as divisiveness in our media and politics?
·How does one deal with the fact that the former social norm of avoiding certain subjects at work has become obsolete?
How employers answer these questions can mean either discovery or disaster for their organizations. Especially in work environments where people have less physical proximity, a sense of belonging has become harder to achieve without an intentional engagement plan. Political polarization, cultural, gender, age, class, and other differences have been amplified by the media and some leaders.
Fortunately, there are well researched practices to address these cultural shifts. And these practices are reasonably straightforward to implement. Conversation trainings and guides for structured conversations have been developed in the bridging movement to increase people’s listening skills, and to build understanding, connection, and appreciation for differences. Many of these practices have been tested and found to be beneficial. For example, Living Room Conversations’ six-person structured conversations were found to be effective both short term and longer term for improving participant’s mindsets, building listening skills, and applying what they learn to other parts of their lives. And this was true for both in person and video conversations. Much that has been developed for the bridging movement fits organizational needs.
Strengthening these skills in the workplace has benefits both within and beyond the workplace. First, building strong work cultures reduces turnover. People are more likely to stay in organizations where they feel they can do good work, be respected for their contributions, and experience community. Good connections between employees are key to doing this whether in person or at a distance. Shared vision, understanding of each other’s needs and concerns, mutual respect, these are markers of successful workplaces.
Second, respect built inside workplaces can have positive consequences for the wider society. Our society is inundated with highly visible failures to live up to an ideal of respect across differences. Because these frictions exist in the workplace and have to be addressed there to increase organizational effectiveness, workplaces can be a place where learning to value differences also extends to other parts of society. Many people spend half of their waking hours working. Workplaces that are intentional about promoting respect, curiosity, and good listening for the benefit of all can be leaders in restoring these qualities to our civil society as well.
This April 17th to 23rd is the National Week of Conversation. It is a collaborative event put on by the bridging community. This year’s event includes a host of workplace focused programs. Please join us to make a positive difference at work and a positive difference in society.