GVSU to host discussion on navigating workplace politics

By Drew Schertzer | 3/13/17 12:36am

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GVL / Courtesy - GVSU.edu Michael DeWilde, Koeze Business Ethics Initiative Director and Professor of Philosophy at Grand Valley State University

by GVSU.edu / Grand Valley Lanthorn

While many individuals in the workforce have had some experience dealing with difficult work-related situations, it can be challenging to know when and how to talk about these issues. 

For this reason, Michael DeWilde, philosophy professor at Grand Valley State University and director of the Koeze Business Ethics Initiative, will team up with Marybeth Atwell, a clinical psychotherapist, to present “Navigating the Politics of Workplace Topics” Tuesday, March 14, at 6 p.m. in the L. William Seidman Center.

“Students put emphasis on the technical aspect of their jobs,” DeWilde said. “They think that’s 100 percent of it, but it is only half of it. The other half is being more politically savvy.”

The interactive session will begin with DeWilde and Atwell taking people through scenarios they might run into at work, DeWilde said. Topics will include politics, same-sex couples, race, religion, salary disputes and more. During the event, DeWilde and Atwell will speak about the political and psychological aspects of these topics and how to circumvent them.

“Not knowing how to respond can make people feel bad or even lead to legal ramifications,” DeWilde said. “It can hurt morale and lead people wanting to leave the organization.”

Students will learn about different methods they can use to get around tough topics. DeWilde said there is no easy way to navigate around these issues when they are brought up. However, he said making light of the issue by using humor, referring to company policy about the subject (if it is in the policy) or excusing yourself from the situation can help.

“I once had a job where I knew other coworkers were getting paid more for doing the same job,” said Lisa Marsh, a GVSU student. “I wish I could’ve talked to the manager, but I really didn’t know how to bring it up.”

After listening to Atwell and DeWilde, the students will be invited to take part in interactive sessions to learn how to verbally avoid confrontations surrounding tough topics and how to respectfully participate in the subjects as well.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws the discrimination of people based on their race, religion, sex and other factors. Atwell agrees with DeWilde that people should not be discriminated against, especially in the workplace. Pointing to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, DeWilde said companies can do a better job of educating people about addressing diversity in the workplace.

DeWilde said people are allowed and often encouraged to decorate their cubicles based on their personal hobbies and religions. In addition, individuals can also take time off from their work to recognize important dates in their religion. DeWilde said it is important to know why different people are taking days off from work and that there are better and worse ways to talk about these reasons and that it is imperative to know the difference between the two.

For more information about the event, visit www.gvsu.edu/events/navigating-the-politics-of-workplace-topics-1/

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