It's rare that I actually write a post and decide to rewrite it. It's even rarer that I write a post and decide that's not quite the post I want to write and delete it. That's what's happened this time around; and yes, it was on a leadership topic.

Myanmar, monks and novices
Dietmar Temps via Compfight

There are two things I really try to stay away from: religion and politics. This is an incredible year for the second topic, and there's a lot of fodder that can be used in discussing both good and bad leadership. The examples are numerous, but it's also problematic.

What's the problem? Just like when I write posts about diversity, I find that instead of a true discussion of the topic, people ignore what's being said and instead have to discuss what I call their "agendas"; that's if I can get them to talk about it at all. On the blog, those types of discussions don't happen often. But in other places, or in private messages that come to me... well, it is what it is.

Not that I'm scared of the issues I talk about; leadership is what it is. It's just that when you get into talking about either religion or politics, it becomes a much bigger issue than I really want to deal with. For that matter, it's one of the major reasons why both are something I'm glad that most businesses ask people to keep out of the office.

We don't talk to each other anymore; we yell and scream and get upset over things that, in the long run, don't really involve us all that much. Minds are almost never going to be changed on either of these, yet office cohesion, if it did exist, will never be the same.

Of course that turns out not to be the standard across the board. In health care, if a facility leans in a particular direction it's going to be obvious what those beliefs are. When I was consulting at a hospital in the south that supported a particular protestant religion, there were signs all over proclaiming it, along with Bible verses everywhere. My wife is presently contracted with a Catholic facility in the south, and she's stated the same thing is happening there.

I don't have a major issue with that except it pretty much means that those employees who believe otherwise learn pretty quickly to keep their mouths shut and go along... for the most part. I'm not religious so I made it clear to people not to invite me to any churches on Sundays; my wife has done the same. Since we're not traditional employees we can get away with it, but there are many other employees who, though they should have the freedom to live as they wish, feel that they have to acquiesce to the powers that be and participate in things they don't believe.

Frankly that's problematic in my mind, but I know I can't solve anyone else's issues in that regard. By the same token, introducing politics in that environment can be stifling as well, but that's a much different animal to deal with.

Why? Because these days politics is more about yelling and beating people over the head to believe as you do. One might think religion does the same but it doesn't have to; it's more firmly entrenched moreso than politics. It doesn't change year to year, or have to deal with the winds of change depending on who the political candidates happen to be.

In my opinion, no matter what beliefs an organization might have religiously or politically, it's up to leadership to make sure that everyone feels comfortable doing whatever they wish to do in their private time, and to work as hard as possible to keep both religion and politics out of the office. Those leaders need to put themselves in the skin of their employees and ask themselves how much they'd appreciate being on the other side of the coin and feeling the intimidation of being something they're not.

Look at that; an article that was one thing and is now something else has morphed from just being about leadership to being about diversity at the same time. Well, there's never enough written about diversity is there? 🙂