Devan Moonsamy 

The world has been shocked by the attack on Ukraine by Russia. It has sparked debate and discussion across the board. Be it on your favourite radio station to standing by the water cooler at the office, the crisis has received wide spread attention. 

Office discussions around the conflict being experienced around the world to who won the soccer match last night can become unpleasant if not handled correctly. This does not mean needing to police the conversations taking place around the office. It just implies that individuals must be made aware of how this type of argumentative or contentious topics should be discussed. 

Although many of your staff might be keen on discussing these topics, it might surprise you that many of them might hesitate getting into a discussion. For many of these employees they might feel unsafe to speak their mind out of the fear of being misunderstood or getting involved in a conflict. 

This does not mean a mandatory policy must be instated to get staff to start talking. Things like politics and issues around the world can be discussed in the office provided there are guidelines to prevent them from getting out of hand. 

It also doesn’t mean that discussions in which people share their opinions will always get out of hand. The workplace should be an environment in which staff feel safe to share their ideas and opinions. 

Ideally there should be communication policies in place at work to give staff guidelines on the communication that is acceptable between staff and staff as well as staff and clients. 

This should also highlight how contentious issues should be discussed respectfully and appropriately. 

Here are a few ways to encourage and cope with the discussion around issues that are argumentative:  

  • Create a safe working environment that encourages healthy discussion. Instead of not having staff talk about topics, have guidelines on how certain topics should be discussed. It is important that staff feel work is a safe space. They should not feel that they are targeted at work because other staff members are having a conversation around them and are being insensitive to their needs. 
  • Making the environment safe also means levelling with your staff members. Be empathetic and understand where they are coming from. Many of them might be coming from different backgrounds and ethnicities. This would also mean that some staff members who are not familiar with their beliefs could present a bit of insensitivity. It is important to rehabilitate the workplace culture with actual culture conversation. Remember knowledge is key. 
  • If you are a staff member that is always abreast with the ongoing of the world then work on having a broad mind around people’s acceptance around your opinion. Not everyone is going to agree with you and as such you should not thrive at convincing everyone on your point of view. Be open to the perspective of others and allow yourself to listen and not only want to be heard. 
  • Own your opinion. Many staff members cave at the possibility of conversation around a topic that is controversial. It is important to own your opinion and stand for what you believe in. It would be a good idea to start engaging in discussions and be confident about your point of view. This will boost your confidence and also allow you to share a different perspective on a topic. 
  • Not every contentious topic will lead to an argument. If it does and insults are being hurled, the best would be to address the issue with a manager and eventually HR. Communication guidelines are necessary and should be acknowledged by all staff. 

Devan Moonsamy is the CEO of ICHAF Training Institute, a South African TVET College. He is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute. 

The ICHAF Training Institute offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | 083 303 9159 |

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