August 21, 2020 Chapter Meeting

 & Professional Education Webinar

Information & Registration Now Open!


Diversity Message

As always, there are so many rich ethnic/cultural topics that come to mind and may be particularly celebrated in June.  This year, however, there is the backdrop of the pandemic affecting every cultural, ethnic and racial group in the world. The pandemic has also fed the flames of racism such as more open prejudice against Asians and increasing racial inequities among black and brown people. All of this, including the very recent tragedy of the murder of a black man in police custody, makes the upcoming celebration of Juneteenth (June 19th), even more significant.

This month, I have chosen to talk about another kind of diversity that affects all of us, no matter what our race, ethnicity, religion or gender: the political polarity in this country. The sides are very roughly defined as conservative and liberal, but the polarity has contributed to families not being able to talk or be in the same room with each other, neighbors having arguments that divide a community and co-workers feeling ostracized, harassed and having their voices suppressed due to their political views. The divisions in our country started before we even were a country.

Building a democracy requires differences. The differences creating this polarity, however, seem to be widening and becoming more damaging over at least decades. Research has pointed out that with religious, racial and gender differences we have developed some structures and ways to have constructive discourse. In the absence of civil discourse, we seem to feel there are no rules necessary in expressing our political views in ways that demonize those with other views. In recent years, social media has exponentially spread the messages from all sides of the political spectrum in increasingly hostile and damaging ways.

Perhaps one of the positive things that has come out of the last presidential election is the uncovering of just how deep and damaging the divide is.  That is when many US workers began to complain of intolerance in the workplace due to their political beliefs. Depending on the culture of the company or workplace and, sometimes, of the whole community, certain employees felt they were no longer treated as equals if their political beliefs didn’t fit with others. At times, the union culture differs from the nonunion or management culture, increasing those divides also. Just as it is difficult to work to your potential and stay well in a work environment where your gender, race or religion is discriminated against either covertly or overtly, it has become intolerable for some people to work in environments where they experience being disadvantaged due to their political beliefs. This dynamic hinders the entire workforce because it makes cooperation and collaboration at work much more difficult. At times it may trigger an outright conflict in the workplace creating a hostile work environment. It certainly contributes to absenteeism and low morale.

Just as in dealing with other workplace inequities; awareness, mutual understanding and communication is needed to heal the rift and build a working team again. In late 2016, a group of people with differing political beliefs, recognized the havoc this polarity was causing in their own communities and the country as a whole.  They decided to bring people together to talk and listen to each other and learn how to continue working and living together even with very different political ideas. They called this group: “Better Angels,” after Abraham Lincoln’s address referring to the better angels of our nature. They are now called: “Braver Angels.”

One of the founders of Braver Angels is a family therapist. He created workshops for groups of people from all sides of the political spectrum which have fostered understanding and communication and, ultimately, cooperation and friendship between people with very different ideas.  These workshops are based on research done in the field of family therapy, including J.M. Gottman, who discussed the blocks to communication, the worst of which is the feeling of contempt for the person with whom we are in conflict. The expression of contempt and other extremely negative attributes to those, “on the other side,” of our political views seem to be very present and growing in discussions of political beliefs. Social media has a multitude of examples. Many of the workshops created for Braver Angels could be easily adapted to work teams and organizations to develop mutually respectful ways to discuss conflict and foster cooperation and camaraderie in the workplace.  
The benefits of helping people in the workplace to restore an equal playing field for everyone are many.  The necessity of the workplace taking a proactive stance in creating and maintaining that equal playing field for everyone regardless of race, gender, religious beliefs, and political beliefs has now become imperative.

Ellen Stone

NIEAPA Resource Directory 

The Resource Directory is a central source of services that fall under the EAP umbrella and is a great tool for all.  We encourage you to use and share with your colleagues.

Behavioral Health Program Information

Please use the above link if you are looking for up to date information on treatment centers' recent changes, additions or reduction of services. The link also provides contact information for each center's outreach professional. 

This list has been provided by the Chicagoland Professional Liaison Association, which is an organization for outreach professionals in the behavioral health field working in the Greater Chicagoland area. We thank the group for sharing this information with their NIEAPA colleagues.


In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and much deliberation, it is with great sadness that to inform you that we've cancelled this year's conference.  We are working diligently on creating and sharing additional programming for our stakeholders to earn CEU's and network with each other. Please contact Kim Branch or Tricia Fusilero if you have any questions, need additional information or want to be added to our email list.

"NIEAPA members shall seek to develop an awareness of their own personal and cultural values and beliefs as one way of appreciating the importance of multicultural identities in our own lives and in the lives of those we serve.  NIEAPA members shall have and continue to develop specialized knowledge and understanding about the values, traditions and systems of all employees at the workplaces they serve."

Northern Illinois Chapter Employee Assistance Professionals Association (NIEAPA)

Address: 400 E. Randolph #2305, Chicago. IL 60601Phone: +1 (312) 756-7756

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