Addressing Political Discussions in the Workplace
The political landscape is ever-changing, and with the rise in political volatility, the workplace has become a battleground for conflicting ideologies. The recent years have witnessed a surge in political debates, controversies, and polarization in workplaces. It is important employers have the appropriate policies in place to address when political discussions in the workplace begin to escalate.
The Challenge of Political Volatility
It’s an unprecedented time where employees are becoming increasingly vocal about their political beliefs. This shift in workplace culture and the erosion of respectful discourse norms have put a tremendous burden on managers and supervisors trying to prevent conflicts. In fact according to Pollack Peacebuilding, employees spend 2.8 hours each week (or 2 ½ weeks per year) involved in conflict. In the age of remote work, the challenge becomes even more complex, with the absence of nonverbal cues often leading to misunderstandings and escalated conflicts.
Ways to Mitigate Conflict from Political Discussions In The Workplace
A significant issue many employers have is they have not developed a plan on how to address employee conflict regarding political conflict. Not having a plan leaves managers unprepared to tackle the unique challenges in the current political climate effectively or compliantly. Below are examples of steps employers can take so managers can effectively address conflict associated with political disagreements.
Develop Compliant Policies
Employers should develop compliant policies and include them in their employee handbook. Compliant policies provide managers with a consistent process on how to address conflict in the workplace. This ensures employees are treated consistently and fairly. It also expresses to employees the company’s expectations on what is expected from them.
Employers must ensure managers are trained in company policies that address political speech. The training must also include what types of speech are protected. This will ensure when issues arise managers are equipped to address them within company policy and not prohibit protected speech. Since issues involving freedom of speech can oftentimes be complicated, Managers should also be provided an avenue to discuss issues with Human Resource Professionals to ensure they handle the situation in a manner that does not put the company at risk.
Stop It Before It Happens
How to properly address differing opinions seems to be a lost art in today’s workplace – especially when discussing a topic as emotional as political views. Employers must foster a culture of respect and understanding that allows for free speech but adheres to the standards of common decency. The frontline in building a culture is having managers that embody the proper way to address differing opinions. Most employees will follow the lead of their managers.
Another important component of building a culture of preventing politically charged conflicts is employee training. Employers should include training for employees on company policies regarding conflict resolution, as well as how to effectively address differing opinions with co-workers.
Addressing Issues When They Arise
While policies are in place to prevent altercations, they can still occur. Employees should have an expectation of a non-violent and non-threatening environment while at work. If there are any signs of a disagreement that includes shouting, threatening actions, or violence; managers must act to diffuse the situation. Examples of ways to address these situations include:
- Immediately separate the employees
- Document the altercation
- Alert Human Resources to ensure the matter is handled compliantly and consistently with other similar incidents.
Political discussions in the workplace is a complex and challenging issue. With increasing political volatility, managers must find effective ways to navigate the contentious environment while fostering a culture of respect and understanding.
The key to managing political discord in the workplace lies in compliant policies, training, prevention and properly responding to conflicts. Managers must be aware of their legal obligations relating to free speech.
By taking a balanced and thoughtful approach, it is possible to maintain civility in the workplace and minimize the chance that disagreements escalate into antagonism or worse. In the charged times in which we live, managers must be equipped to navigate these delicate waters and ensure that differences in opinion do not disrupt the harmony and productivity of the workplace.
Let MyHRConcierge Help You Address Political Discussions In the Workplace
MyHRConcierge’s SHRM certified HR Professionals can help you prepare the policies you need to address employee conflicts related to political discussion in the workplace. Contact us today at email@example.com, 855-538-6947 ext 108 or schedule a consultation below: