Managing Political Discussions in the Workplace

While a political diversity discussion among employees can be healthy and informative, when does it become a liability and how can it be managed and measured against one’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech?

Regardless of whether your employee’s favourite political hero is red, white, black, or orange, here are some tips to share towards maintaining a cohesive, safe, and productive environment for all:

First and foremost, promote a culture of respect from the top down

Regardless if an employee resides in a C-suite or the reception desk, beliefs and values are visceral, and we are all entitled to them. Encourage respectful exchanges of beliefs without fear or intimidation. An environment where employees are allowed to share without fear of reprisal encourages crucial conversation, which is key to a progressive organisation.

Proceed with Caution

Know your team. Political discussion can be risky. An employee who is disciplined or terminated may attach the action to an unrelated comment or opinion that has been previously shared in the heat of a political debate, “I feel targeted and ostracised.” While sharing openly can be the first step to engagement, remember that what you share may not be as important as how you share it.

Know when enough is enough

If you are an environment that encourages respectful debate, remind employees to be cognisant of social cues, and know when their colleagues are uncomfortable. There is no need to be aggressive or mean spirited, it’s just politics. As a leader, do not hesitate to redirect any discussion that becomes aggressive, disrespectful, or threatening in any way.

Review your policies for consistency

As we approach the 2019 elections, reiterate your policies around the use of electronic communications, harassment, cultural sensitivity, and even dress code. While a political party t-shirt and accessories may be fashion to some, it may send another message to your customers who may prefer fashion that can be seen and not read.

Remember your role as a manager
You have a responsibility to provide a safe comfortable environment; create guidelines and set boundaries for employees to adhere with respect to political discussions. Also, you are obligated to mitigate disruptions that impede your organisations progress that can include such discussions.

A political discussion in the workplace does not have to be any more politically incorrect than a discussion about the EPL or NBA when supported by a base of respect, inclusiveness and sensitivity, all of which are characterisations of a progressive organisation.

Culled from: HR Gazette

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