Politics are hard to avoid, especially during a very divisive election season, which means it most likely has made its way into daily conversation, including those at work.
As a manager, there’s a responsibility to keep the peace, regardless of what topics are being discussed or addressed. Easier said than done. So, how do you keep things kosher and a work environment comfortable for everyone when tensions run high and conflicting political views are shared at work?
Establish a Policy Specifically Addressing Political Speak at Work
As an employer, this is where you make something that can be very gray more concrete. It also takes the onus off the managers when navigating how to deal with conflicting political opinions at work. Now, there might not be a specific “political speak” policy in your work’s handbook, and if that’s the case, all companies should have a code of conduct policy defining how employees should act on a day-to-day basis that can apply. This is where managers can pull insight from when dealing with political disagreements amongst colleagues. Most likely, a code of conduct policy details how an employee will be reprimanded if their conduct interferes with their work activities. If a heated political discussion breaks out, it can disrupt the work environment, resulting in a violation of this policy.
Be prepared for employees to push back on having the constitutional right to free speech. If they do, that right would not apply in most workplaces as long as employers have set rules and policies in place about political speak, and activities that are driven by the like.
Monitor Discussions and Be Prepared to Step In
As a manager, there’s a fine line between managing and micromanaging. Still, when it comes to workplace discussions that can lead to a negative work environment, it’s important to nip those in the bud as soon as possible. Employers have a responsibility to stop anything that negatively impacts life at work, including conversations with conflicting sides. All employees should feel comfortable at work, and managers are in charge of monitoring that.
Managing means you should be engaging with your team, whether that’s in-person or virtually. When it comes to the work environment, managers should know what is being discussed in-house or remotely. If you learn about political conversations taking place, remind employees that discussions like that are only allowed outside of work. Before conversations become tumultuous, tell others that it’s ok if colleagues agree to disagree because not everyone has the same beliefs. As a manager, it’s important to make sure that work situations don’t lead to discriminatory or harassment issues. Managers must be trained to recognize and address those types of situations if they do occur.
Encourage Diversity and Flex Your Teaching Muscle
Differing opinions at work isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People coming from different walks of life with different beliefs are sometimes the best recipe for business success. Suppose you have a room filled with people who all have the same background and thought process, what great ideas could really come of that. Decent ideas, maybe, but truly great ideas come from deeper discussions and brainstorming sessions.
No work policy states that employees must like everyone at work, but there should always be respect regardless of their beliefs. As a manager, use reviews or individual time with employees to share the benefits of diversity and teach them how diversity can make them a better professional and make a business successful.