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Should You Talk Politics in the Office This Fall?
With the midterm elections around the corner, it can be tempting to vent around the water cooler or over Slack about the latest political turmoil. But, is that really what’s best for your company culture and work environment?
There are sharp divides between Republicans and Democrats on seemingly every issue, but people from all backgrounds may be part of the same team or same company. There’s the potential for some great dialogue, but also for some significant disagreements if things get off the rails.
Here are some tips for you to guide your team through this year’s election season and beyond:
Know the Rules
Does your company have a policy about addressing controversial subjects at work? If so, do you know it? These are essential answers to have before engaging in any discussion about politics or other hot-button issues.
The line between free speech and company policy is often blurry, and it’s best to know where things stand before engaging in political discussion or encouraging others to do so. Check with your HR office or company attorney for guidance and then develop a plan accordingly.
Once you know your organization’s policy, this could make a great topic for a team meeting so that everyone is on the same page about what’s permissible as election season draws closer.
Agree to Disagree
If you do find yourself in a situation where you are talking politics with a colleague, remember the value of agreeing to disagree. It’s really difficult — perhaps even impossible — to change someone’s mind, especially in a short conversation, so there needs to be an escape route out of the conversation.
Rather than trying to change someone’s mind, focus on getting them to understand your point of view. A little empathy goes a long way and finding that understanding through politics may even spill over into other parts of the relationship.
There are always going to be people who are going to be overly assertive or seek to dominate the conversation. Be on the lookout for these personality traits and use them to form an exit strategy if needed.
Don’t Mix Oil and Water
A personality test for employment can help you identify the people who are more likely to cause problems when it comes to politics in the office. As a business owner or manager, you have access to this information and can use it to help mediate discussions between employees or make strategic decisions about who should or should not interact.
For example, if you are choosing people for a new project team that will require a lot of travel over election season, it might not be a good idea to staff it with people from different ends of the political spectrum.
Airports and hotels have the news on 24/7. Seeing something about politics might be enough to spark a debate that could make the rest of the trip, and the rest of the project, awkward. There’s also a chance that nothing would happen, but in most cases, this is not a risk worth taking.
There’s More to Life Than Politics
Finally, one other point to keep in mind this fall is that there are plenty of other things to talk about at work besides politics and the midterms. There is an opportunity to tune out what’s happening in Washington and instead focus on local issues where you and your team have more of an opportunity to make an impact.
Encourage your team to get involved with local organizations that are in line with their values and maybe even give some paid time off to volunteer in the community. These activities are also a great way to build goodwill among employees who may have different political views and can be an asset in your recruiting strategy.
Or, start a book club or a Netflix club where people get together to talk about the latest in pop culture instead of the latest drama in politics. Either way, you’ll be helping to build camaraderie around what unites your team, rather than what divides them.
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