Exploring Tricky Topics

Wish.jpg

When things get tricky in our workplaces, we may wish for magical solutions or hope the problem goes away. Sometimes we need to take a different approach when bringing up difficult conversations or exploring topics with the potential to stimulate strong feelings.

With certain words, people may feel the connotation more strongly than the denotation.

For example, the word accountability can bring up worry about under-performing, failing to deliver on promises, or being exposed or reprimanded.

Definition of accountability
ac·count·abil·i·ty | \ ə-ˌkau̇n-tə-ˈbi-lə-tē \

The quality or state of being accountable
especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions

When it became clear that a leadership meeting focused on the theme of accountability was stimulating some strong feelings, we brought out the collaborative On My Mind prompt as a way to explore the issue. Attendees were invited to share the first thing that came to mind when they heard the word accountability.

An attendee uses rubber stamps to spell out the words “friends, coworkers, family, trust!”

An attendee uses rubber stamps to spell out the words “friends, coworkers, family, trust!”

As people worked, they helped each other come up with ways to represent their ideas, tried new art materials, and explored other emotional content they brought into the room with them.

An attendee posting his thought on the wall.

An attendee posting his thought on the wall.

The head started to fill with thoughts as the morning progressed.

The head started to fill with thoughts as the morning progressed.

Looking at all the thoughts and responses later, the majority of people’s expressed thoughts about accountability were positive with a few neutral responses. They wrote words like trust and connection and described both workplace and personal relationships.

The wall at the end of the day.

The wall at the end of the day.

Creative practices can be a way to acknowledge and then explore tricky topics in the workplace. Let us know if we can help you and your coworkers work with something tricky for your team.