Recently someone asked me how to handle conversations about the presidential campaign at work. Emotions are running higher than usual this year, and it’s apparently bleeding into the workplace.
Employees may find themselves in a conversation around the water cooler that could easily get out of hand.
If politics is seeping into your organization, send an email to all employees at all levels, reminding them that your organization is a workplace focused on respect and civility, so emotional and angry political conversations have no place in your company.
You could also provide some guidelines to employees, such as the following reminders:
• Although political conversations evoke strong emotions, everyone should keep their volume and emotions in check.
• If you don’t like where a conversation is headed, just say, “Excuse me, I’m going to step out” and walk away.
• Don’t expect to convince others to vote for your candidate of choice. If you go into political conversations knowing it will only be a conversation, and you will never be successful in swaying people, it can help keep your frustrations down.
• Agree to disagree. The workplace is already full of different people who believe in different religions, ways of life, and more, so continue to celebrate those differences and enjoy your co-workers.
In the end, politics have nothing to do with the job at hand, and conversations about politics leave the door wide open for hurt, anger and frustration. They also open the door for retaliation, and behavior that could be illegal. Anger breeds aggression, and aggression can turn into a harassment law suit. (No, political party is not a protected class. But any good plaintiff’s attorney can find a protected class to stick their client into if they need to make a case.)
Employers should stay away from attempting to ban political conversation altogether. If an employee talks about a candidate’s promise to increase wages, for example, this is a conversation about labor issues and trying to ban it could get the employer in trouble.
Also keep in mind that employers cannot dictate how employees should vote, and should never send out any communication of any kind regarding political views of the CEO or leadership.
Long story short – if emotional political conversations are on the rise in your workplace, provide some guidelines for having those conversations, and keep your eyes peeled for any resulting negative behaviors or aggression.
Ultimately, if you have a positive and healthy workplace, where respect and civility are the norm, your employees can likely easily talk about politics without issue.