Do Employee's politics matter?
Handling Politics at Work
During this time of nationwide divide, are you one of the many employers around the country struggling with how to handle employees’ varying political views in your workplace?
According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM):
72% of HR professionals indicated their organizations discouraged political activities in the workplace.
24% of organizations had a written (i.e., formal) policy on political activities, and 8% had an unwritten (i.e., informal) policy.
Okay, so statistics are great, but what does that mean in the real world?
When approaching the topic of politics in the workplace, think about your employees, your culture, and the work environment. Admittedly, this is a time in history, unlike any other with impassioned employees becoming more vocal than ever about their beliefs.
Freedom of speech remains an important factor in our lives and our workplaces. However, our workplace can quickly become overrun with varying views and discourse if there is not a clear culture around respect.
Allowing employees to take claim to their beliefs and feel free to explain them to those willing to listen is appropriate. But note the keyword in that sentence. Willing. If the conversation moves to a side of discontent, make sure you’re creating a safe space for employees to agree to disagree and get back to work.
What if the conversation escalates?
If conversations do escalate to the point of no return, act quickly. Make sure employees understand that the conversations are happening at a place of business, and you allow varied opinions. However, don’t be afraid to take control of a situation that feels as if it is spinning out of control, potentially abusive, harassing, or threatening in any way.
The key to ensuring that your workplace remains safe and non-controversial while maintaining employee’s freedom of speech rests in the hands of the leaders in your organization. The way employees are encouraged to have meaningful and mutually agreed upon discussions and discouraged from forcing their views on others will make the difference between a workplace where employees feel respected and comfortable, and one that they feel is not supportive and even hostile.
Taking the time to be intentional, thoughtful and proactive with your employees around not only political but all potentially controversial subjects will create the kind of working space people respect and enjoy.