Let’s face it, discussing politics can be tense. At this time, employees may be more apt to discuss politics as well as disagree on various topics related to political issues. Tempers can flare and productivity can suffer. Below are 5 ways to reduce potentially heated political conversations in the workplace.
- Ensure Managers are trained to avoid political conversations/discussions in the workplace and during working hours. Managers set the tone for the workplace and employees typically take their cue of what is allowed to discuss at the workplace from management.
- Communicate to employees the detrimental effects of political conversations and advise them to use discretion. Let employees know that people have different views and that political talk has the potential to create a hostile work environment and/or may offend someone. Let the employees know that the organization supports diversity.
- Establish and/or review policies. To create a respectful work environment, make sure your Anti-harassment, Discrimination Prevention, Retaliation, Non-solicitation, Political Activity, and Loitering policies are maintained and up to date. Ensure to communicate those policies to employees.
- Ban political slogan buttons, T-shirts, hats, etc. as part of your dress code policy, particularly for employees who come into contact with clients or customers. Make sure the ban is company wide, including senior management and owners.
- Avoid political endorsements and comments, other than offering a statement to employees encouraging them to be socially responsible and vote.
Please note: Regulating political discussion is a tricky balance as discussion of minimum wage, equal pay, paid leave — things that affect working conditions — might be protected by federal labor laws. On the other hand, careless comments about race, gender or religion could also lead to harassment or discrimination claims.
Lastly, it takes only one person to have an inflammatory discussion which can alienate someone or cause a hostile work environment or potential harassment claim. Which can lead to expensive litigation. Therefore, make sure you protect your organization and rid it of political discussions (unless its a business necessity).