Political Divisiveness in the Workplace – How to Set the Right Tone for Your Team

Politics is everywhere right now. It’s on yard signs, billboards, and it dominates every form of media. There’s no doubt that tensions are high and likely will remain so even after the election ends. Denying it is impossible. So, what do you do at work?

Talking politics at work is a bad idea. HR says, “Don’t do it.” Leadership says, “Steer clear.” But do the old rules still apply?

It’s impossible to avoid politics altogether. Rather than stamping it out, you need to learn how to manage it.

First, Set Ground Rules for Everyone

If you aren’t aware of your company’s rules around political statements, refer to the HR handbook. If you don’t have any rules, now is an excellent time to set them. The key is to make sure the restrictions apply to everyone equally.

An essential ground rule is to ban political paraphernalia in the workplace. That means no candidate or political party t-shirts or hats or even laptop stickers — not even the ‘funny’ or ‘jokey’ ones. Everyone can have their political views, but they can save their physical expression for nights and weekends.

Keeping these out of the workplace will help prevent colleagues from sitting across the office and seething, which will prevent feelings from bubbling over at the water cooler.

A second rule required for these divided times is the rules governing when to walk away. If a discussion or question becomes a debate or confrontation, then all employees must walk away — no exceptions.

Keep Protections for Labor Speech

Remember that while you can end political debates during work hours, there is legally protected speech as defined by the National Labor Relations Act.

Employees can discuss wages, working conditions, and unions. You can get in trouble for putting the kibosh on these discussions, so make sure everyone knows what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

Remind Everyone of the Policies on Harassment

You can create a culture that avoids confrontation and encourages respect. However, you should also make sure you share resources if some employees can’t meet those standards.

Remind everyone of the rules on harassment, intimidation, and bullying — both online and offline. Create an open-door policy for anyone experiencing any of the above and make it clear to the entire team. 

No one has the right to harass or bully anyone else due to their political beliefs, so it’s vital that everyone knows what your behavioral expectations are and that they have support if it does happen.

Political Speech Happens, But You Can Still Control It

The year 2020 is not a time when employers can ban political speech and call it a job well done. People will talk about politics at work. Your role is to ensure that you create an environment that avoids confrontations, sets behavioral expectations, and upholds the right to protected speech.

These may be unprecedented times, but life and business go on. If you’re looking to add quality IT professionals to your team, RightStone can help. Get in touch to learn about the RightStone 360 process.

 

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