Elevating the Debate

One of the great things about working at SHRM is the opportunity to speak with so many HR professionals and business leaders who are making a real difference in their workplaces. One thing I’ve certainly learned is that every one of SHRM’s 300,000-plus members has unique experiences and viewpoints that deserve to be heard.

But the challenge I, and many of us, face today is a change in the atmosphere around public discourse. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a precipitous decrease in the level of civility when people express their opinions and beliefs. This devaluing of civility has been fueled by the comparative anonymity of social media, and it has spilled into our communities and even our workplaces.

A recent Randstad survey found that more than half of 807 respondents had witnessed heated political discussions at work, and more than one-third—38 percent—had participated in them. Seventy-two percent felt anxious when heated arguments occurred, and 44 percent said the arguments hurt their productivity at work.

This is a disturbing trend that the HR profession and business leaders cannot ignore.

As a lawyer and workplace advocate, I’m open to hearing differing opinions on issues and am willing to discuss different perspectives. We must have the courage to engage in vigorous debate about the issues impacting our workplaces every day, like the skills gap, sexual harassment, pay equity, student debt and workplace immigration. But those debates will go nowhere if they can’t be constructive.

When we resort to name calling it’s unproductive. We stop listening to each other and only prepare to defend. We make it less about the issue and the impact and more about us.

HR has a powerful voice in addressing the challenges facing our nation. That is why we can’t allow profanity or personal attacks to block us from real dialogue and potential solutions to important issues.

We don’t always have to agree, but we should be able to disagree with civility so that the conversation can continue and evolve. That is how we create better workplaces and a better world informed by thoughtful discourse.

I am committed to sharing my ideas, and listening to others’ ideas with courtesy and respect. I hope you will join me.


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