What Are Your “Undiscussables?”

Recently I was reading an article and it mentioned “undiscussables” as dictated by workplace culture. It is a fun word and an interesting concept that I’d like to explore it briefly here. undiscussables corporate cultureYour corporate culture has norms, expectations, and core values that people are expected to follow. But it also has things in it that nobody talks about, because it’s uncomfortable. They’ve been around so long that people have allowed themselves to forget or ignore the issues.

Remember, it’s not only what you do, but what you allow, that frames your corporate culture (for better or worse).


  • The manager who blows up at his staff on a weekly basis without a care for the morale damage he’s causing.
  • The “A player” who can’t seem to get the chip off his shoulder, despite producing amazing results.
  • The poor performer who just so happens to be the owner’s nephew.

Potential solutions

I think the first thing we need to understand is that not all “undiscussable” topics are going to be easily solved. Take the third item in the list above-that really isn’t going to be easy to handle, no matter how you look at it.

One way to make a change to other issues (like the first one involving the manager) is to bring in an outside observer. Your role as a leader within the organization might not be enough to get attention, but if a consultant came in and commented on the behavior, it might be more likely to get noticed and addressed.

It’s critical to push senior leaders to abide by the positive aspects of the culture for the greater good. If it means changing their behavior or that of the management staff, it needs to be done to ensure the success of the organization as a whole.

And finally, there are just some times when you need to ignore it if it’s not worth the battle. Maybe it’s not a big deal to anyone else but you–in those situations you need to let it go.

Do you have any “undiscussables” in your workplace? What are they? How have you dealt with them?

2 thoughts on “What Are Your “Undiscussables?”

  1. Pingback: What Are Your "Undiscussables?" - upstartHR | The People Part of Organizations | Scoop.it

  2. Steve Hearsum

    Hi Ben

    Couldn’t agree more, which is in no small part why we set-up undiscussables.com (we soft-launched last week, so feedback/comments welcome).

    In terms of your post, which is what brought me to your site, the thread I want to weave into the conversation you started, is one around what undiscussable subjects in organisations say about society and human behaviour in a wider context. For example, in the UK (where I live) we have had a big story around a deceased celebrity who it has been finally revealed was a predatory paedophile. In the coverage here, much of the focus has been on the organisations he worked in, and the notion that this was about failures in leadership. Yet relatively little discussion about the extent to which these organisations are merely mirroring behaviour(s) in society.

    I don’t have an easy answer, rather I have lots of questions. What I suspect is that this is an uncomfortable area and it is no surprise we avoid talking about our taboos – individually and collectively, in multiple contexts.

    Best wishes


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