More and more, people are looking for a workplace where they can make a contribution that reflects who they are, an environment where they can express their deepest beliefs and feel a more profound and human connection with colleagues. These aspirations fly in the face of mid-20th century corporate America’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” conception of workplace harmony. Rather than avoiding discussions of policy, identity or purpose, growing numbers of workers can’t imagine coming to work and not sharing their opinions about gay rights, economic inequality, #BlackLivesMatter, immigration, abortion and a host of other complex, hot-button topics.
In these times of activated moral engagement, leaders must help to equip employees with the tools to handle—and ideally grow from—the tension that comes from the surfacing of emotions or articulation of ideas that run in conflict with their own. As LRN Senior Leader Michael Eichenwald explains in this Fortune article, the first step for any organization is to address the problem head on; that is, to begin the conversation about how to have conversations on difficult topics. After all, the companies that will win in this century—values-based, purpose-inspired organizations led with moral authority and operating with a set of core principles and social imperatives— are populated by fully invested employees who bring their full selves to work.