I recently finished reading Sex, Politics, and Religion at the Office, by Doug Noll and John Boogaert. It's an interesting book that places a little bit of a trick on the reader. In the early chapters, the authors repeatedly talk about using sex, politics, and religion as a source of competitive advantage. Yeah right, was the primary thought that kept running through my head. The authors are critical of many HR departments for being oversensitive and creating an unhealthy attitude towards many of the behaviors that are normal and healthy. I kept reading, anticipating some sort of twisted study that was going to explain how lax sexual harassment rules somehow contributed to the bottom line.
Then the surprise came. John and Doug twist the idea around so that it really does make sense. If you build a culture that can honestly and openly discuss these issues, while being tolerant of disagreement, that really can be an advantage. It isn't the sex, politics, and religion that you need. The real point is that any culture that can deal with those issues effectively can also deal with disagreement and debate about products, services, and all the other things that go into running a business. They go on to point out that companies that can freely discuss and debate important business issues are much more successful than companies that don't.
When I began reading this book, I assumed I would recommend it to HR professionals who have to deal with these issues. But now that I've finished it, I would say it's a good book for managers who want to foster a culture of openness and debate. The book is also good for people that want to carry around a conversation starter. I read the book while traveling, and several people kept peeking at the provocative title, with a few of them even asking me questions about the book. If you are interested in picking up a copy, you can order one directly here.