Your workers are hiding what they really think - that's a problem

Workspaces should be safe for disagreement, not from it, argues Simon Fanshawe, author of The Power of Difference.

by Simon Fanshawe
Beware of self-censorship

My father used to say that you should never talk about money, God or sex at the dining room table. As a result, I confess to growing up thinking there was no trinity of subjects more interesting. It was fear of the arguments which would ensue that inspired his rule, rather than prudishness. In the tradition of teenage rebellion, I enthusiastically pursued the idea that difference of opinion and the exchange of ideas on important topics were central to any understanding of each other and of the world.

Now way beyond those teens, my work in the field has shown me that it is fundamental that diversity has our differences at its core. So the results of YouGov’s poll before Christmas on self-censorship made for depressing reading: 40% of people said they self-censor their political or social views at work “for fear of judgement or negative responses”.

It may be just good discipline not to enter into controversial territory in the office. You might want to set such boundaries. But it has dangerous implications. A fear of speaking up on wider social issues spills over to create a general culture of inhibition at work.

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