You may prefer to run a non-partisan business, but during an election year those political conversations inevitably pop up. And suddenly, an off-handed comment turns into a heated debate. To keep work-life civil, use these tips to manage political discussions in the office.
Familiarize Yourself with Workplace Laws
When it comes to politics, workplace laws vary by state, industry and context. While everyone has First Amendment rights, these rights may not apply in the office. In other words, if someone shows up to work wearing a pro-gun hat, in most cases, you DO have the right to ask them to take it off. However, you’ll want to make sure you know what you can and can’t legally enforce.
Establish Company-Wide Guidelines
To avoid confusion, clearly outline the rules in your organization’s employee handbook and explain these regulations to your team. Of course, you’ll need to strike a balance between being sensitive to everyone’s feelings and becoming a Draconian state. For example, you probably don’t want to ban employees from talking about the latest news story. But, asking workers not to hang political signs on their cubicles may be reasonable.
Recognize Different Points of View
Most likely, you know employees who are die-hard Republicans AND employees who are die-hard Democrats. Just because you work together doesn’t mean you must share the same point of view. Rather than fretting over these differences, celebrate your organization’s diversity. In the end, a variety of outlooks can help your business better relate to your customers (who also have a variety of outlooks).
Ultimately, tolerance and empathy should be an integral part of your company’s culture. While an employee may not agree with a coworker’s view on abortion rights, they should at least try to see things from this person’s perspective. After all, everyone IS entitled to their own opinion.
Teach Employees to Argue Effectively
Shouting matches don’t change people’s mind. Therefore, consider training your team to argue more effectively. Basic strategies such as identifying logical fallacies will allow workers to have more productive conversations about politics as well as work issues.
Intervene If Necessary
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, workers will fall into an unproductive political argument. When this happens, your management team should be ready and trained to step in. Supervisors should know how to diffuse disruptive situations that have the potential to damage relationships. In addition, reminding employees who have stepped over the line about company guidelines can assist in preventing future outbursts.
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