Differing opinions and points-of-view are what make a collaborative workplace more engaging and innovative. However, conflicting ideologies can create tension if handled improperly. Just because an employee is conservative-leaning doesn’t mean they can’t work at a liberal-leaning company (or vice versa). As a manager or team leader, there are steps you can take to ensure that personal politics don’t interfere with the productivity, safety and culture of your workplace.
Establish Workplace Policies in Writing
Can employees wear political pins to work? Can they use company resources (phone, email, computers) to engage in political activities? Can they post about their personal politics on company-wide channels? Make sure that all of your employees know what kind of activities are and are not acceptable in the workplace. While you’ll never be able to monitor all private conversations or ban every political debate, you can make sure that the company’s policies are clear when it comes to not letting these conversations interfere with the professionalism of the workplace.
Politics.Sucks when it gets in the way of a productive, comfortable working environment. If an employee is found consistently engaging in non-professional debate around political topics, it is helpful to refer them to your company’s written policies. As a manager, you should work with your human resources department to make sure a formal complaint procedure is in place and understood by all of your employees.
Help Employees Find Common Ground
Despite differing views on political and social issues, there are probably many things that you and your team can agree on. You work in the same place, after all, so you probably have an interest in your industry of choice. There’s plenty to discuss that isn’t the President’s latest blunder or the latest controversial law. Finding common ground among your employees will give them something to focus on that isn’t their political differences. Whether you do this through cultural events at the office or by encouraging collaboration across departments, there’s a way to bring your employees onto the same page and boost office morale.
PoliticalTension.Sucks, but can largely be avoided if your team is aligned on larger goals and projects. Of course, you can’t pretend that current events aren’t taking place—but your employees shouldn’t use them as fodder to argue about their political leanings.
Consider Sensitivity Training
Harassment and diversity training may be mandatory in your state already, but even if it’s not, it’s a good idea for businesses of any size to consider. This kind of training helps sensitize team members to how their comments or attitudes can affect others, and will set your team up to better handle conflict resolution. Make sure that further resources, like HR or counselling, are available to those who feel they may want or need them. Having a good training foundation means that you aren’t starting from scratch when a problem arises later.
Discrimination.Sucks, full stop. Sensitivity training can help your employees to acknowledge their inherent biases and avoid discriminatory practices when dealing with conflict.
Focus on Employees’ Strengths
Even if someone is vastly different from you, or their politics set them apart from the majority of the team, they probably have many strengths that got them hired in the first place. Maybe they’re a great critical thinker, an eloquent speaker or impressively well-read. While these can be discouraging traits in a political opponent, these are great strengths in a teammate. Focus on the individual strengths of each employee and put them to work where you think they will thrive.
IncompetentLeadership.Sucks. A strong leader will shift the focus to their employees’ contributions to the company. Even if you disagree with some of your employees’ opinions or views, it’s your job to focus on job performance, not party allegiance.
Not everyone has to agree on everything in order to create a productive and successful work environment. In fact, our differences are often our greatest strengths. Establish rules clearly before there is a problem, and be sure to only punish disruptions, not opinion. Follow the above guidelines in order to creative a thriving and diverse work environment that can better help you brainstorm, innovate and problem solve in the long run.
Have your own opinions on politics in the workplace? Join the conversation with a custom .SUCKS domain and make yourself heard loud and clear.
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