Five Ways To Manage Political Talk In The Workplace
Over the past few months, human resources leaders have been answering one question more than usual. Employees are asking, “Is it okay to discuss politics at work?” The answer is anything but a one-size-fits-all. With the incredible attention that this year’s election is receiving, the topic of Biden vs. Trump is bound to come up while at work. Teaching employees how to navigate these tricky conversations isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. There are several ways HR leaders can guide their teams through the murky waters without completely shutting down the discussions altogether. Here, I’ve outlined a few tips on how to encourage employees to navigate the hot topic of this years’ election without causing an in-office riot.
Avoid Party Politics
It’s easy to be sucked into the blue or red discussion. Have employees, instead, discuss big-picture concepts, specific ballot measures, or general concerns. Encourage them to talk about how they would be affected by changes in order to help explain why they are concerned about specifics. By keeping the focus on the details, employees can have constructive, educational conversations that help others (even those with opposing views) see their side.
Remind Employees To Be Respectful
Political views are an extremely personal matter. Everyone has reasons to believe what they do, and there is no standardized solution. Ensure that employees are sincere in their interest for another person’s views, and have them truly consider why another person may feel the way they do on a certain topic. By taking a humanized approach, your employees can respectfully share opinions with each other without getting nasty. Practicing these discussions may even help them in other work conversations and difficult situations in the future!
Make Sure They’re Aware Of When To Stop
Make sure your employees know when to end the conversation. If they begin to get social cues during a discussion that the other person is feeling uncomfortable, it’s time for them to divert the discussion. They can let the other person know that they respect their point of view and appreciate the conversation, then move on. There’s no use in having an inner-office conflict over an attempt to influence another person’s political views.
Remember Your Position
Employees and leaders alike have a difficult decision to make when discussing politics at work. While leaders play a critical role in setting the tone for what is acceptable in each environment, employees often follow their lead. Some leaders choose to take a firm stance of not discussing politics with anyone. Others take the stance of being open and true to themselves. My advice to employees and leaders is to decide with whom and when you share your views based on each individual interaction. If you wouldn’t share personal life details with someone, politics probably shouldn’t be a topic you discuss either.
Know That Knowledge Is Power
Cheesy, I know. But remember that the more information you have about an employee, the more responsibility you carry. One of the reasons traditional HR encourages leaders and employees to stay away from discussing politics in the office is because these discussions can open companies up to potential risk. If an employee has a heated political discussion with a manager, then is released due to an unrelated issue, the employee has the ability to feel as if their differing political views were the ultimate cause of their termination. Again, this is where using your best judgment as to what personal opinions you share with whom and when comes into play.
Employees and leaders would be wise to proceed with caution, regardless of whom they’re talking to.
These five tips are just a few ground rules that are good to follow and keep top of mind when encouraging employees to discuss – or not discuss – this year’s election in the office.
Written by Sarah O’Neill – SHRM-SCP CommunityVoice
©2018 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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