Gagging Political and Religious Discussions At Work. Why??


Religious and political discussions are a part of cognitive diversity. There is no sturdy evidence or body of work that supports the perplexing belief that religion and politics are emotional topics, that provide employees permission to act savagely and without respect for other people’s ideas.Cognitive, emotional and other forms of diversity, have been repeatedly shown to improve workplace financial profits, growth and creativity. It is therefore unproductive and damaging at work to gag political and religious discussion, under the unsupported and tolerated premise that it is emotional, and could result in “riotous” banter. Cognitive diversity and diversity in general, typically increase corporate profit and employee engagement.

Twenty First century organizations interested in obtaining tangible financial profit from diversity and inclusion, must invest in promoting healthy diversity initiatives. Restricting opportunity for expression of cognitive diversity by limiting proper expression of diverse ideas, leads to tension, untested assumptions by employees of one another, and stymies creativity and productivity. This is hardly surprising as tense or hostile workplaces have low producing employees.

Recruiters that make adverse hiring decisions based on polite political discussions (or reject applicants based on vocalized party affiliation, or vigorous religious disagreements as expressed on LinkedIn or other social media) are suppressing employee/applicant freedom in sharing ideas, and could be exposing themselves and their employers to loss of creativity, employee attrition and even discrimination claims.

It is important to note that a hiring manager can reject a job applicant who is a bloviating and disruptive online boor. If such an applicant’s lack of control is evidenced in political/religious outbursts, name calling and general brutish communication— there is ample justification and legal protection for rejecting such a job applicant. There is a bright orange line that differentiates barbaric hysteria, from polite and civil intellectual disagreement, and courteous discussion of religious and/or political issues.

To enable your organization promote cognitive, emotional and other diversity— and inclusivity, healthy expression of ideas— and to avoid abridging employee rights to Free Expression without good reason, the following best practices are beneficial:

  • Do not provide any cover for employees who use invective, abuse and other animal like conduct in political and religious discussions. These unwarranted outbursts affect the sharing of ideas in a healthy manner, and could quell a healthy debate of ideas in a creative environment.
  • Consistently train all employees on the benefits of inclusivity and diversity. Remember not to use outdated training material which do not fully cover the girth of 21st century diversity. Diversity training should always include the consequences of acting against employees who express their religious or political beliefs in a civil manner.
  • Conduct regular tests on implicit and explicit bias for all employees, with more frequency for hiring managers and recruiters. Implicit and Explicit bias tests are necessary safeguards for sustaining the benefits of cognitive, gender, racial and other forms of inclusivity within organizations. Guidelines should be provided to all employees on how to manage and overcome biases. Learn more about implicit bias by clicking HERE.
  • Employees who show minimal impulse control when issues or religion and/or politics are discussed should be supported with employee relations coaching and other 21st century tools. Such employees that lack impulse control could have larger emotional or other related problems, problems that are less obvious, but still damaging and could be harming your organization and other employees.

Diversity and inclusivity according to extensive, muscular and continued research, increase workplace engagement and profits. Political and Religious differences are components of cognitive,emotional and broad diversity and inclusivity, and should be encouraged and effectively managed. Meaningful discussions of political and religious issues, advance part of a needed cognitive and intellectual exchange which enhance a healthy and knowledge based, successful workplace.

Despite the much touted divisions and hysteria fanned by the media, politicians and religious extremists— understanding differences in opinions, culture and behaviors enrich our minds, encourage creativity and enhance a healthy work environment. Politics and religion are part of a cognitive exchange of ideas in the new global workplace—a workplace in which knowledge and creativity of employees, provide needed competitive advantages and bolster organizational financial profit.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”— Aristotle

I wish you well.

****The Society For Employee Relations (SFER), a successful non-profit organization, offers a free course to members and non-members on conducting Respectful discourse at work. The free course includes how to conduct successful political and religious discussions to promote cognitive diversity. For more information contact us at