Discussing politics is a popular pastime with many Americans, especially on social media. At one time “political science” was considered an intellectual pursuit, but this century it’s become much more emotional. Here are ideas for managers to consider for keeping political conversations under control at the office.
Candidates and Perceived Associations
One of the main problems with bringing up politicians is they are often equated with specific social or economic issues that trigger condescending remarks or personal insults. Many democrats, for example, associate republicans with white supremacy, while many republicans view democrats as anti-capitalists.
Political Trends in the Workplace
The topic of politics became increasingly divisive with the 2016 presidential election. A 2019 poll taken by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that political disagreements in the workplace had escalated significantly since the election. Over half of the study’s respondents – 56 percent – said political discussions at work had become more common since 2015.
Another survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), found that 82 percent of Republicans think the Democratic Party is controlled by socialists, while nearly the same share of Democrats think the Republican Party is run by racists.
Employees should be conscious not to engage in name-calling, which leads to immature showdowns. They should be reminded from time to time that the entire staff works together as a team.
Part of the HR department’s job is to maintain a stable workforce. Hiring the best talent available is essential to business success. HR managers should insist colleagues respect each other as a key to company progress. This requirement can best be addressed during employee training sessions. Explaining the difference between opinions and facts make this point clear.
Supervisors should agree to not show favoritism to one side or the other, which can be intimidating to employees. Another way to maintain a neutral atmosphere is to avoid using social media for posting political opinions or watching political TV programs. Keep in mind that several states have laws protecting employees from being penalized for engaging in political activities.
There’s no room in a professional environment for political debates that fuel unproductive conflict. It’s often better to promote general or work-related topics at staff meetings than to allow political commentary. When political talk gets too heated it can create tension that weakens productivity. At the same time, managers must be cognizant not to limit freedom of expression.