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How to Respectfully Discuss Contentious Issues at Work

Many people feel unsafe to speak their minds at work

You probably wouldn't be surprised to hear that people are more hesitant to speak up at work now than they were a few years ago. I certainly wasn't shocked when a study our firm conducted in late 2021 of more than 1,400 people confirmed this. After all, we are living in one of the most volatile social landscapes of our time. But while that finding wasn't surprising — the magnitude of the fear was. Nine out of 10 respondents have felt emotionally or physically unsafe to speak their mind more than once in the past 18 months. And 39 percent reported feeling unsafe either every day or every week. Only 7 percent report that they are just as confident as ever in social situations.

The topics that people most dreaded addressing were, once again, not a shocker: with political or social issues (74 percent) and COVID issues (70 percent) ranking as the most daunting.

But, fortunately, the purpose of the study wasn't to validate the obvious. It was to explore a hypothesis that is a little less obvious — we wondered if a significant part of our heightened angst is of our own creation rather than a function of current conditions.

Please select this link to read the complete article from Harvard Business Review.

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