We Can't Talk about That at Work!: How to Talk about Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics (Paperback)
Instead of shutting down any mention of taboo topics, Mary-Frances Winters shows how to structure intentional conversations about them, so people can safely confront biases and stereotypes and create stronger, more inclusive organizations.
Politics, religion, race - we can't talk about topics like these at work, right? But in fact, these conversations are happening all the time, either in real life or virtually via social media. And if they aren't handled effectively, they can become more polarizing and divisive, impacting productivity, engagement, retention, teamwork, and even employees' sense of safety in the workplace. But you can turn that around and address difficult topics in a way that brings people together instead of driving them apart.
As a thought leader in the field of diversity and inclusion, Mary-Frances Winters has been helping clients create inclusive environments for over three decades. In this concise and powerful book, she shows you how to lay the groundwork for having bold, inclusive conversations.
Even with the best of intentions, you can't just start talking about taboo topics - that's wandering into a minefield. Winters offers exercises and tools to help you become aware of how your cultural background has shaped your perceptions and habits and to increase your understanding of how people from other cultures may differ from you, particularly when it comes to communicating and handling conflict.
Once you're ready (you can take the self-assessment included in the book to make sure), Winters gives detailed instructions on exactly how to structure these conversations. She emphasizes that this is a process, not a destination—you may not be able to resolve major issues nicely and neatly in just one conversation. And while the process is important, so is intent. She urges readers to “come from your heart, learn from your mistakes, and continue to contribute to making this a more inclusive world for all.”
About the Author
As founder and president of the Winters Group, Mary-Frances Winters has been helping clients create inclusive environments for over three decades. She was named a diversity pioneer by Profiles in Diversity Journal and is the recipient of the prestigious Athena Award, as well as the Winds of Change Award conferred by the Forum on Workplace Inclusion.
“Given all the external influences that ultimately impact how we show up in our personal and professional lives, it’s important that we, as organizations and leaders, encourage open dialogue and a safe space to engage. This book provides everything you need to do just that.”
—Rohini Anand, PhD, Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, and Global Chief Diversity Officer, Sodexo
“This is the book we have been waiting for. Read it, learn from it, acquire the skills described in it. And then with courage, patience, and practice, you will be prepared to have those difficult but necessary conversations in your workplace.”
—Johnnetta Betsch Cole, PhD, President Emerita, Spelman College and Bennett College
“Mary-Frances Winters has done it again! Her real-life examples are compelling, and her ‘best practices’ can have an immediate impact on everyone who reads her book.”
—Mitchell R. Hammer, PhD, President, Intercultural Development Inventory, LLC; Intercultural Conflict Style Inventory, LLC; and Safe Dialogue, LLC
“I’m very excited about the release of We Can’t Talk about That at Work! The issue of discussing polarizing topics at work is a really tough one. People are not comfortable having uncomfortable conversations. I’m happy that there will finally be a resource to guide us all on how to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
—Michele C. Meyer-Shipp, Esq., Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Prudential Financial, Inc.
“This book is a comprehensive, practical, and highly accessible tool for empowering people to have the brave conversations that are needed in these tumultuous times. Mary-Frances has given readers an invaluable resource for organizations and individuals to navigate the charged times that we live in and make a contribution toward cocreating a more compassionate future.”
—Nene Molefi, diversity and inclusion thought leader and CEO, Mandate Molefi
“Mary-Frances Winters’s wisdom shines throughout this book. She helps us understand deeply why we need to talk about polarizing topics—yes, at work—and then proceeds to show us how with care, concern, and compassion for those who may not agree with us. I hope that all leaders and employees read it and implement her wise suggestions and counsel.”
—Julie O’Mara, coauthor of Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks and other inclusion works and Past-President, American Society for Training & Development (now ATD)
“We are living in times of crisis. Day after day, we are confronted with polarization about issues of real import to our society and our world that can seem difficult, if not impossible, to talk about. And yet this is not a time for timidity. We must talk about these issues if we are going to cross the great divides in our ideologies and exist together in civil society. Mary-Frances Winters has created an extremely helpful guide for better understanding and navigating those difficult conversations. Be bold—use this book!”
—Howard Ross, founder and Chief Learning Officer, Cook Ross
“We Can’t Talk about That at Work! has hit the mark. This body of work is critically important to advancing inclusion and dialogue in our workplaces. As we work diligently to increase our diversity, we struggle with inclusion and having the difficult conversations about the various aspects of diversity. Now, we have a road map and tools to support diversity professionals, leaders, and employees in any work environment. This will be the book used by all.”
—Darlene Slaughter, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, United Way Worldwide
“In the current global political and social climate, characterized by increasingly polarized views, the ability to embrace views different from our own, without judgment or vilification, is more critical than ever. It is also at the heart of all diversity and inclusion work. For with all our ideals, we often overlook the fact that diversity and inclusion can be hard. In We Can’t Talk about That at Work!, Mary-Frances addresses this issue head-on, providing practical skills to empower leaders and managers to have effective dialogue across difference.”
—Kate Vernon, Director, Strategic Programmes, Community Business
“The presidential farewell address is a perfect way to set up this powerful and practical guide to effectively engaging in conversations about polarizing issues. I too believe that we need to meet people where they are, and not expect them to necessarily see the world from our view, and that we all have work to do to close the cultural divide and change hearts. What makes this book different is its soft approach to bold conversations, using talking tips, templates, and reflection questions.”
—Tyronne Stoudemire, Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, and Adjunct Lecturer of Management and Organization, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
“Whether in her writing, public speaking, or consulting, Mary-Frances Winters always delivers. Deep subject matter expertise, strategic thinking, sociocultural insights, contemporary application, and wisdom will spill out of these pages as you engage with it.”
—Andrés Tapia, Senior Client Partner and Global Practice Leader, Workforce Performance, Inclusion and Diversity, Korn Ferry Hay Group, and author of The Inclusion Paradox