Bans and productivity

Is the workplace the best place to discuss societal and political issues? No.

Should societal and political discussions be banned from the workplace? Also, no.

The problem with a ban is that it rarely hits where it aims. You might want to curb animated discussions on your internal tools and you end up making your people feel less comfortable expressing themselves.

We do live in challenging times. Most issues are polarized. Most fail to see the greys. Most feel the only possibility is to be fully in or fully out. And if your people want to talk about a delicate issue, your role as a leader is not to direct the conversation towards the appropriate forums, but rather to sit down with them and provide a safe forum for the discussion to happen.

Even if that means a loss in productivity.

False dichotomies

Two reasons why many arguments fail to move the conversation forward and develop the relationship – from the beautiful book by Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style.

  1. We approach the argument as if it were a dichotomy. Black or white. Right or wrong. Good or evil. For as much as this is convenient to survive, it is not a great representation of how things actually are. And it is certainly not a path to understanding.
  2. We make it personal. It is rarely about finding the truth or the better course of action. It is about beating your opponent. Who is motivated by the wrong values, less intelligent, and not as refined.

When we avoid falling into these traps, we find the place for learning and growth.

Arguments should be based on reasons, not people.

Steven Pinker

One story

When all you hear is one story, that one story is going to be your reality.

This is what happens to all of us, more often than we like to admit. It happens when we get stuck in a bias. It happens when we feel everything is wrong. It happens when we are sure we will succeed this time. It happens when others are an unknown “they”.

We need to make an effort to be listening to at least a second story. And then a third, a fourth, a fifth ..

The fact is, nowadays there is no excuse for us not to do that with intention.


If you look around for fairness, you will find little of it.

Different people see the world in different ways, and fair becomes a fluid concept when you change perspective.

If you look inside for fairness, on the other hand, that is something you can more easily work with. You can train it, build it, apply it, and eventually spread it around. You can make it contagious, and impact those who are close to you.

And it all starts with being fair to yourself. What can you expect of you? What will you hold yourself accountable for? How will you express this to others, how will your actions impact them, and how are you going to find out?

Before asking the world to be fair, ask that of yourself. Imagine if everyone would do that.


We often find meaning and identity in opposition.

Groups get stronger when they are attacked. Their members feel closer to each other when there is a stranger around, and they find agreement when the topic is a different group.

And the more we are weak, the more this happens with intensity and fervour. The less we know about ourselves, the more we seek in others.

It is only when we accept that every one, every group, every community has their strengths and weakness, their leaders and followers, their lights and shadows. It is only then, when we raise, that we can really find who we are, what we stand for, and where we call home.