Tips to keep political discussion from negatively impacting work
By Kyra Kudick
Prior to the election, at least 1 in 10 workers (17 percent) said they felt tense or stressed out because of political discussions at work, according to a September survey by the American Psychological Association.
Further, workers reported they were more cynical and negative at work (15 percent), they had more difficulty getting work done (10 percent), they were less productive at work (13 percent) and that their work quality suffered (10 percent) as a result of ongoing political discussions in the workplace.
More than half of workers polled (54 percent) said they avoid discussing politics with colleagues, and 1 in 5 (20 percent) reported avoiding some coworkers because of their political views.
These workers were also more likely to report that, because of political discussions at work, they feel more isolated from their colleagues, have a more negative view of coworkers, and have experienced an increase in workplace hostility.
But the election is over now, right?
Not much has improved since the election. A February survey commissioned by BetterWorks shows that 49 percent of people have witnessed a political conversation actually turn into an argument at work, and that number goes up to 63 percent for millennials.
Perhaps you have also noticed that the heated discussions and divisive rhetoric that exists in todayís political environment have found their way into your workplace.
If your company has official policies on political discussions in the office, now is a good time to remind your employees of those expectations.
If you donít have official policies, consider the following suggestions for keeping workplace political
discussions congenial so workplace morale and productivity donít suffer.
- Donít argue with employees. Give-and-take conversations might be acceptable, but arguments can be off-putting, especially if an employee feels pressured to agree with a supervisor. If you have the urge to argue with an employee, especially one you manage, change the subject, or walk away. If someone expresses discomfort with political discussions, respect his or her wishes. Political arguments can erode the trust in the manager-employee relationship.
- Be mindful of potential discrimination. If you must talk politics, stick to politics and stay polite. Politics have become increasingly entwined with religion, race, gender, and controversial social issues, and as a result it is easier than ever for a political discussion to border on discrimination or harassment.
It is possible that an employee who is engaged in a heated political discussion (or who just overhears one) might take offense. Companies need to be vigilant about maintaining a non-hostile work environment.
Remind employees of your companyís harassment policies, and encourage people to come forward if they feel threatened by political speech.
- Donít evaluate based on political beliefs. You may not agree with a coworkerís political views, but as a supervisor, you should not let that influence your assessment of that personís work or value to the company.
Base your evaluations on objective or company-established performance metrics such as meeting deadlines or quotas, or customer feedback and reviews.
- Be consistent in discipline. While it might feel like now is a good time to cut employees some slack and give them space to stay informed in light of recent political news, a free-for-all on social media could result in significant productivity issues.
If your company has policies that prohibit personal use of company property (e.g., computers, networks), remind employees that these policies still apply.
You can discipline workers for activities that impede productivity, just make sure you are applying the rules to all employees, regardless of their political leanings.
Copyright 2017 J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. All Rights Reserved.