It’s the end of the workplace as we’ve known it: there is no longer a separation of our professional and personal selves. Our new reality: we bring our perspectives, our families, our whole selves into work. Companies increasingly care about employees’ mental, emotional, and social health and well-being. Consumers (and employees) demand social action, corporate social responsibility, and leadership from Corporations, the de facto nation states of the 21st century. In this new reality, what conversations are appropriate? Necessary? Constructive? Worth having?

As a facilitator of Transformative Conversations and cofounder of multiple startups that are Changing The World Through Conversations, I often think about the power of conversations and how the right questions can be intentionally applied to spark meaningful dialogue. So after some contemplation on the above questions, I came up with 5 Crucial Conversations you can have in the workplace to be a catalyst of positive change, and 3 questions you can use to start the conversation with your colleagues for each section. This is for the leaders who want to lead with Empathy, Vulnerability, and Compassion. For the employees who want to build meaningful relationships with their coworkers. For the managers who want their teams to grow together, not apart, during our new remote work reality. Enjoy, and love to hear your feedback and thoughts!

Conversation #1. Let’s talk about our collective suffering.

Grieving the loss of loved ones to Covid-19. Worrying about our children’s happiness and stability while pent up at home. Missing family and friends. The upcoming election. Pain, grieving, worries, and fear doesn’t differentiate between executives and interns. We are all suffering. And it’s better if we know we aren’t suffering alone. Here are some questions you can use with colleagues to better understand their suffering, and be there for them during these hard times.

  1. How are you today…really?
  2. What’s the hardest part about being you, right now?
  3. Is there anything on the personal front that is making work tough for you right now?

Conversation #2. Let’s talk about violence in the workplace. 

Sexual harassment. Racism. Discrimination. Violence in the workplace, in the form of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse, is more prevalent than we think it is. Just one example: studies suggest anywhere between 40-70% of women and 10-20% of men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. And silence isn’t going to make it go away. To create a future without workplace violence, we have to have some tough conversations. So here are some questions to dive into conversations that help us build empathy and compassion for our colleagues, and systematically start dismantling violence in the workplace.

  1. How have you learned to be empathetic and compassionate towards others? What are you still working on?
  2. Have you ever witnessed any form of violence in the workplace (harassment, discrimination, racism)? What did you do / what would you do differently?
  3. In what ways are you investing into your personal growth journey to become more of an advocate for anti-racism, anti-harassment, anti-discrimination? I’d love to learn from you.

Conversation #3. Let’s talk about what we’re optimistic about and who we’re grateful for at work.

Feeling optimism and gratitude on a regular basis can literally add years to our lives. In addition to the hard conversations, we also have to create space to cultivate what we love about work; it’s how we spend the biggest chunks of our days! Here are some questions to cultivate and share optimism and gratitude with your team.

  1. What are you working on that makes you excited and optimistic about the future?
  2. Who’s a colleague you’re grateful for, and why?
  3. If there was one random act of kindness I could do for you to make your day, what would that be?

Conversation #4. Let’s talk about how we’re growing ourselves, and each other.

Personal growth and growing others are some of the most fulfilling things about the human experience. Here are some questions to explore your growth journey, with others.

  1. What is the skill you want to be exceptional at during your lifetime? What is your motivation for wanting to acquire this skill?
  2. What are you most passionate to be learning about right now?
  3. What is blocking your pathway to personal and professional growth? Are there ways I might be able to assist?

Conversation #5. Let’s talk about how we’re creating a better future for humanity, and this planet, through our work. 

There are 8 active genocides happening in the world right now. 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual abuse. 3.6 billion people currently live in potentially water-stressed areas, and with the current climate change scenario, between 24 million and 700 million people will be displaced by 2030 due to water scarcity. There is so much work to be done to create a better future for humanity and our planet. How are we doing this work, on a personal level? How is our company doing this work? Use conversations to catalyze action for yourself and your teams.

  1. What actions are you taking to create a better future for humanity and this planet?
  2. How are you using your influence to shape your company and the wider world for the better?
  3. What is one terrible thing about our current reality you would never wish upon future generations? How are you taking action to change our future reality for the better?

If you’re interested in exploring how to bring Transformative Conversations (at scale) to your workplace, please reach out!