From Inclusion and Diversity to Mental Health: The Conversations That Need to Be Held in the Workplace

People are more vocal about their thoughts and beliefs everywhere, but the workplace is where most of those thoughts are put on pause. Between company policies and different perspectives of coworkers, the workplace isn’t the best place to have those “difficult” conversations. However, with current issues in the world, companies need to start touching on these subjects. Throughout the years, some topics have been easier to discuss than others but there’s still a way to go.

What’s so scary about these conversations?

If we’re being honest, nothing is wrong with having these “difficult” conversations. They offer different perspectives and show you who you’re really working with and working for. Big-name companies like to shy away from these conversations while pushing their own agenda or “culture” onto their employees. Employees want to feel secure in their job in every way possible and that includes the questions and concerns in the back of their mind.

Whether it’s safety, racial and socioeconomic equality, mental health or a flexible work schedule, employees shouldn’t feel apprehensive about coming to their employers with their concerns. If they do, it says a lot about the company.

What are some topics we should discuss more?

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Many companies and workplaces have issued statements in their solidarity with Black and brown people. They’ve introduced better inclusion and diversity training, educated themselves on the issue and reassured their employees of their positions. While that’s a great start, other conversations could include: how to approach a situation where an employee of color might feel targeted, not shying away from different racial concerns and respecting cultural boundaries. We can also take it up a notch further and suggest to remove race and ethnicity from job applications.

Mental health is no stranger to us. We see and know the mental struggles that are prevalent in today’s society. Working can be overwhelming, especially when you have many responsibilities on and off the clock. About 18% of the U.S. population experience an anxiety disorder and only a third of those individuals receive help. Mental health services aren’t usually covered in health benefits and many people go undiagnosed. Employers should be advocates for their employees, and employees should be able to confide in their employers if something is wrong.

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Pay and promotions have always been a workplace no-no but that’s changing. People are understanding their worth and would like to ensure that they’re getting their fair share. We’re all aware of the pay gap between men and women and we want to see that change. Talking about your wages with coworkers can help you realize your strengths and prepare you to talk to your employer about it. This also keeps up with the conversation about your performance and how your employer sees you. Don’t be afraid to ask about moving up in the company or taking on a bigger project. Show them what you’re capable of and speak up for yourself.

How can we introduce these conversations?

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You can bring up suggestions or concerns at meetings, you can submit your suggestions anonymously or speak to an HR representative and see if they have any tips. Many workplaces like to brag about working as a team but that can’t happen if there are some underlying issues. It’s better to bring the issues to the forefront than to suffer in silence.

When you address these issues, be direct and specific, offer solutions and be open to what the next person has to say. Hold yourself and others accountable and be aware of the work atmosphere after you’ve stated your concerns.

An open and honest workplace is an ideal workplace and that can only happen when everyone works together to ensure it stays that way. While no workplace is perfect, the important thing is that everyone feels valued and respected. Having these conversations may not come easy but you’ll be glad you did it. All it takes is one person to get the ball rolling.