Crossing the Great Divides: What to Do When the Culture Wars Enter the Workplace

90-minute Workshops

Day 2

Session Code: S2-K
When: April 17, 2019
Location/Room: M 100 AB
Level: Intermediate
Track: Social Responsibility
Presenters: Howard Ross, Udarta Consulting  |  Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, Disaster Avoidance Experts


We are living in a time of almost unparalleled separation and dissension. Societies all around the world have moved from environs in which people might agree to disagree into situations in which people are disavowing others’ right to an opinion. Said another way, we have moved from disagreeing about issues to disavowing each other as people.

On a societal level here in the U.S., we have seen these social cultural wars being fought around race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, politics, and other identity traits. Yet we know that the same dynamics are occurring all around the world. In these times of extreme, toxic societal polarization, organizational leaders, diversity and inclusion professionals, and human resources professionals struggle to cope with the impact of having social divides intruding into their workplaces. How can they deal effectively and ethically with societal culture wars subverting organization culture, thus undermining employee engagement and team cohesion?

The infusion of the cultural wars into the workplace can have a dramatically toxic impact on the workplace environment. Workers may feel unsafe or uncertain with fellow employees. They may lose trust and withdraw engagement. Biases may have a negative impact on organizational decision-making. Conflicts may even escalate resulting in negative workforce behaviors, a lack of civility, and diminished performance. Companies may find their brand damaged by an individual incident or the inappropriate use of language by a senior leader, as in the recent examples of Starbucks and Papa John’s Pizza.

In actuality, the workplace has the potential to provide a remarkable opportunity to address these issues. Today’s workplace is one of the few places where people have no choice but to have to be with people with whom they disagree. While this is a great challenge, as people often bring their toxic societal views to work with them, it is also a great opportunity for workplaces to provide healing.

This presentation outlines the problem and offers proven strategies, informed both by real-world experience from successful organizations and cutting-edge research, to help HR professionals defend their organizations from the fallout of broader social culture wars. Based on cutting edge research from our books: “Our Search for Belonging: How Our Need to Connect is Tearing Us Apart” (Howard Ross) and “The Truth-Seekers Handbook: A Science-Based Guide” (Gleb Tsipursky), we will discuss why these dynamics are happening, turning toward neuro-cognitive and social science research to help explain and understand these dynamics.

The fundamental purpose of this talk is to remind people of their responsibility to create environments in which all people experience a sense of belonging, and give them the tools both individually and organizationally to address breakdowns with people in their personal and professional lives.

Learning Outcomes
  1. Gain skills to protect your organization from the fallout of the culture wars of our polarized and divided society
  2. Learn best practices from other companies that have successfully protected their organizational culture
  3. Acquire knowledge needed to lead for greater inclusion and civility

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