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Resources for Managing Teams with Diverse Viewpoints

by Leading Edge

Since October 7th, many Jewish nonprofits have faced challenges relating to managing teams with diverse views about Israel and the war in Gaza. At the same time, controversies around higher education have opened painful rifts about how institutions pursue diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, while political polarization continues apace.

Disagreements about passionately held beliefs can be painful, especially for many Jewish nonprofit employees who choose to work in this sector because the Jewish community can feel familiar, like family. For some employees, their colleagues are also friends from camp or people with children in the same schools. This sense of closeness, so common in our field, can be wonderful — but it brings challenges as well. People may assume, erroneously, that everyone around them has similar views to their own — especially about Israel and Jewish issues, but also more broadly. Alternatively, even when people are aware of differences of viewpoint, they may hold back their views — even views directly relevant to the organization’s work — to try to avoid conflict in the workplace. But excessive avoidance can ultimately lead to festering and possible escalation. 

These challenges are not unique to this moment or any one issue. People are multi-faceted and any team will naturally include some amount of differences in deeply held beliefs about any and every high-stakes controversy. Whether those differences are large or small, they can be difficult to manage, and, at worst, they can be severely damaging to a workplace culture. 

But when organizations manage diversity of viewpoints well, it can be a superpower. Evidence shows that interaction across ideological boundaries is associated with higher levels of skill development, career success, life satisfaction, and leadership growth. Cognitive diversity measurably improves team performance. Having teams with diverse ideologies and backgrounds can be a powerful source of new ideas and innovation.

As a partner organization in A More Perfect Union: The Jewish Partnership for Democracy, the Leading Edge team is also mindful that workplaces can contribute to a healthy culture of democracy. Democracy isn’t only about free and fair elections, important as those are; it’s also about pluralistic civic habits and a culture of respect across differences. As the U.S. prepares for a potentially divisive 2024 presidential election and its aftermath, organizations that work to improve how their workplace cultures manage differences of deeply held beliefs will strengthen not only their own organizations, but also the health of democracy more broadly.

This topic of how to handle differences of deeply held beliefs in an organization is sensitive, complex, and difficult. Different organizations have different needs and situations, and not every resource presented here will be relevant or appropriate for every organization, situation, or issue. Leading Edge is not an expert in this; we are learning and growing along with everyone else. The following are resources we hope may be of use to some organizations as we all continue working to find constructive ways forward, with curiosity and humility.

Policies to Consider

Many organizations have been reviewing or re-establishing their expectations around how employees communicate, collaborate, and productively support the organization’s mission and values in this tumultuous time. These expectations are typically outlined in the Employee Handbook or HR Policies. 

Below are policies that are typically relevant to differences of viewpoint in an organization or workplace conflict, and some questions about each. These questions don’t constitute full guidelines for constructing a policy; rather, they are questions relevant to each policy that may be particularly important for organizations to consider at this time. For each policy area, evaluate whether your policy already answers these questions, or whether the organization has made an informed decision to not include certain guidelines. Furthermore, policies alone cannot necessarily prevent many difficult challenges and dilemmas from arising. Nonetheless, they are a valuable starting place.

Please note: Consult legal counsel to ensure compliance with federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Code of Conduct

Guided by your mission and values, the code of conduct policy outlines rules and expectations for behavior during work-related interactions.

Should your policy:

  • Include specific expectations for internal interactions between employees or between employees and board members?
  • Set guidelines for employee or board member interactions with participants/community members in the organization’s external meetings/spaces/events?
  • Recognize the likelihood of differences of opinion on sensitive topics and yet mandate respect for colleagues? How is respect defined in your organization?
  • Indicate the procedures to provide “pauses” for processing, allowing passions to dissipate, and allowing time to evaluate whether or not the code is being met?
  • Clarify how to escalate concerns if the code of conduct is not being met?

Conflict of Interest

Conflict of interest policy defines actual or perceived scenarios where decision making or reputations might be compromised based on relationships, financial investment, or other factors and the appropriate process to protect the individuals and the organization from impropriety.

Should your policy:

  •  Include distinct guidelines for all employees? The executive team? The board?
  • Define specific organizations or causes that are defined as “in conflict” and prohibit membership or any participation?

Representing the Organization

Organizations often create representation policies if aspects of their mission could be seen as political, controversial, or could jeopardize safety.

Should your policy:

  • Define what “representing” constitutes? Naming one’s job title and employer? Explicitly claiming to represent the organization? Some other standard?
  • Allow for explicitly saying that one’s views “do not represent the employer” as sufficient for the policy to allow naming one’s employer in a public forum?
  • Differ by particular causes, topics, or organizations, or is it a general guideline?
  • Indicate a vetting or approval process for participation in events or signing outside statements that may be or be perceived as representing the organization?
  • Include language about when an organization’s logo (clothing, “swag”) can be used?
  • Include language regarding individual rights to freedom of speech,  while avoiding saying/signing/writing/ doing anything that would lead someone to reasonably attribute their personal positions to their organization without explicit approval?

Media Relations

This policy governs all media interaction relating to the organization, mission, funding, employees, or any other factor. 

Should your policy:

  • Offer specific escalation points if employees are contacted by the media?
  • Outline specific expectations if confronted by media or a non-supporter of the organization outside of the workplace?
  • Define “crisis communications” and any unique requirements?
  • Explicitly authorize only certain individuals to speak on behalf of the organization? Articulate the expectations around “off the record” or anonymous contact with the media?
  • Cover situations with Board Members?

Work-Related Social Media

A subset of the code of conduct that guides employees on representing the organization (brand) online in a way that protects security, privacy and reputation.

Should your policy:

  • Specify which organizational posts can be reposted or commented on by all employees versus those that only individuals with expertise should engage with?
  • Encourage (or discourage) employees from tagging or using specific hashtags?
  • Include guidelines that could impact physical safety of employees? (i.e., only post about in-person events after the event)?

Personal Social Media

A personal social media policy defines expectations for how employees associate with the organization and the appropriate behaviors for any personal social media presence.

Should your policy:

  • Encourage employee disclaimers regarding personal thoughts rather than representing their organization?
  • Contain reminders that connections to the organization are easy to research, particularly if all employees are listed on the organization’s website?
  • Require discretion and offer clarity around repercussions of posting confidential information or material regarding the board, funders or other corporate partners?
  • Mention that the policy is not intended to interfere with protected activity under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)?

Solicitation & Distribution

This policy sets clear boundaries for the time and place that non-work-related written materials can be circulated among employees.

Should your policy:

  • Include mention of use of electronic systems such as Teams, Slack, or other DM/IM software to solicit or distribute non-work-related literature?
  • Mention that the policy is not intended to interfere with protected activity under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)?

Providers of Training & Facilitation

Please note: Inclusion in this list does not indicate an endorsement from Leading Edge. This list of providers was compiled from some organizations we have worked with, some organizations that have been recommended to us by others, and some organizations whose published materials we have found informative. They represent a range of approaches and viewpoints. Organizations should thoroughly vet potential vendors for service capabilities and alignment with their mission and values. Leading Edge cannot provide any information about fees for these services. If you have any feedback on the listed vendors, please email info@leadingedge.org.


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