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Political Discussion in the Workplace

Talking politics at work can be divisive and undermine the good relationships needed to be productive and collaborative, but there are a number of things managers can do to keep this from happening.

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    Political Discussion in the Workplace

    Political Discussion in the Workplace

    According a recent survey by Glassdoor1, most employees (60 percent) believe that political discussion at work is “unacceptable,” though 50 percent have done so.

    Workers of a certain age were advised early in their careers that discussing politics and religion in the workplace was to be avoided at all costs. Times have changed. Today, we read of high-tech companies providing internal chat rooms where politics are a central discussion topic and workers publicly oppose management policies and decisions they feel run counter to their political beliefs.

    Permitting such political discussion can be a minefield; Alphabet’s internal message boards got so out of control that the company issued new guidelines last year after acknowledging that the discourse had turned toxic. This is the same company in which employees walked out in protest over payouts to executives accused of sexual harassment and have lobbied the company not to work with the Department of Defense (DOD).

    Let’s face it, politics can be divisive and undermine the good relationships needed to be productive and collaborative; however, there are a number of things managers can do to keep this from happening.

    Some Advice from the HR Experts

    The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers some important guidance for managers and employers.

    1. Establish office policies and conduct training sessions on being respectful to all employees. SHRM recommends avoiding a specific focus on politics, which may add fuel to the fire.
    2. Some corporate policies to consider implementing include banning political campaigning in the workplace, using company computers to send emails with a political message, wearing clothes or accessories with political messages and prohibiting political messages in the workplace, even in private offices or cubicles.
    3. Stress the difference between what constitutes expressing an opinion and what rises to the level of harassment.
    4. Senior leaders should avoid political discussions in the workplace to set an example. Moreover, hearing political opinions from management may intimidate workers, fearing that they must agree or their careers will be harmed.
    5. Avoid politically-oriented programs in the workplace. It’s better to air CNBC or “Casablanca” in the lunchroom than it is to broadcast an MSNBC or Fox News opinion show.

    SHRM also cautions that banning speech may go too far. For instance, stifling talk of unionization or workplace conditions may run afoul of federal laws. They also point out that state laws differ, so employers should also be mindful of what political expressions may be protected in their state.

    Source:

    1. https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/app/uploads/sites/2/20-02-03-Politics-at-Work-Fact-Sheet-Glassdoor.pdf

    See referenced disclosure (2) at http://blog.americanportfolios.com/disclosures/    

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