Having Difficult Conversations at Work: Insights from DEI Leader Quinne Teske

If you’ve ever faced the challenge of having difficult conversations at work, today’s episode of Break the Bias is for you. Consciously Unbiased founder Ashish Kaushal has a candid conversation with Quinne Teske, Global Director of DEI & Employee Experience at Allegis Global Solutions. The DEI leaders discuss  why bringing your authentic self to work is not always the best idea, ways to respectfully disagree and stay open to viewpoints different than your own, tips for enabling quieter voices in the room to be heard (rather than only the loudest voices), and so much more. 

Listen to the full episode here, and read below for some key takeaways. 

On Bringing Your Authentic Self To Work

Bringing your “authentic self to work” has become a popular term, but Ashish thinks the phrase is often misunderstood. It’s not about removing all your filters, because that won’t make for a productive work environment, Ashish believes. Rather, it is about creating an environment of psychological safety and empathy in the workplace where people feel safe sharing, for example, challenges that may be impacting their performance at work.

You can also explore more about the myths associated with DEI in the workplace to get a broader understanding of this topic.

Quinne thinks authenticity is rooted in self reflection and knowing who you really are and your core beliefs. “I think being authentic is being consistent,” says Quinne. “That’s one of the most important ways that you can show your authenticity is when people know what to expect from you. I believe that is really the core of what being authentic is.” 

“I think being authentic is being consistent. That’s one of the most important ways that you can show your authenticity is when people know what to expect from you. I believe that is really the core of what being authentic is.” 

On Polarization, Social Media & Misinformation

It’s no secret that our society, and therefore our workplaces, are becoming more polarized as we’re approaching the 2024 presidential elections. While social media can be a tool for connection and sharing ideas, it can also lead to polarization and the spread of misinformation. This can impact the degree of openness employees have in the workplace when confronted with differing viewpoints. 

“I suggest trying to stay away from social media a little bit more,” says Quinne. “I do think that social media can be a wonderful thing to share ideas and connect people, but I also can see the role that it has played in really polarizing people. I think that is one of those instances where people do take the filter off and people feel emboldened to just kind of assert their beliefs and attack each other.”

On Creating A Safe Space For Having Difficult Conversations at Work

Whether it’s the recent SCOTUS ruling on affirmative action or the overturning of Roe V. Wade, workplaces have been addressing social issues in the workplace that impact their employees. Each company is different and it may not be about taking a side, but about creating a space for people’s voices to be heard and processed. Conscious conversations, as we call them at Consciously Unbiased, help arm people with the facts and let them come to their own decisions—it’s about respecting each other even when you disagree.

Conscious Conversations also ask us to examine our own thoughts and beliefs. “You have to be willing to sometimes be open to believing that you don’t know all the facts or maybe you don’t understand the issue completely, and that may or may not change your opinion,” says Quinne. “At the end of the day, [the key is to] be willing to truly hear and listen to what the other person has to say.”

“You have to be willing to sometimes be open to believing that you don’t know all the facts or maybe you don’t understand the issue completely, and that may or may not change your opinion.”

On Helping Quieter Voices In the Room Be Heard in Meetings

Inclusion and belonging are about ensuring all voices in the room are heard—not only the loudest voices. It’s important for leaders to put practices in place that encourage everyone to share their perspectives to broaden the pool of ideas. This is how true innovation happens.

“If you haven’t heard someone say anything, you have to clear the room for them a little bit and ask them an engaging question,” says Quinne. “You might say, ‘Hey, Julie, we haven’t heard from you on this. I’m really interested in how you feel because of XYZ. What do you think?’ Sometimes those people have the best answers and perspectives, but if they are feeling like they don’t have that open window to jump in because they just don’t have that naturally assertive approach, sometimes the leader has to reach a little over a little and pull them in.”

In order to create truly inclusive workplaces, leaders of all levels should feel equipped to have difficult conversations at work that center on respect, and a willingness to listen to viewpoints different than their own. For more in-depth understanding, you can explore the complexities of DEI in the workplace.

Transforming Difficult Conversations into Opportunities for Inclusive Growth

Quinne Teske’s candid perspectives shine a light on the nuances of balancing authenticity and professionalism, while building understanding across differences. Her advice underscores the need for empathy, active listening without judgment, and leading by example in modeling openness to other viewpoints.

While difficult conversations will inevitably arise, Teske gives hope that by approaching them consciously, leaders can foster workplace cultures where all voices feel valued, heard, and included. The rewards of persevering through discomfort are great – expanded mindsets, mutual understanding, and tapping the full potential of differences. 

Did you know that Break the Bias podcast is recognized in the top 20% of most followed podcasts on Spotify! Don’t miss out on past Break the Bias episodes and keep up with the discussion. 

If you are interested in bringing our “How To Have A Conscious Conversation” training to your team, you can get more information here and learn more about our DEI Training

Author

Holly Corbett

As the Director of Content at Consciously Unbiased, Holly Corbett is fueling inclusion through storytelling to build a passionate community and creating experiences inside organizations to transform workplace culture.
 
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