by Bill Swan, SHRM-SCP, Principal Consultant
When differing opinions and political views exist within the workplace, election periods can be challenging to navigate for workers and managers alike. As the US gets closer to election time in 2024, we can anticipate more situations in which employees express their views, make comments, get involved with political activity, and prioritize time to vote. As crucial a time as it is to take part in a constitutional republic, tensions may rise. Even the most dedicated employee can find it difficult to keep their mind on work when political theater is a hot topic.
The following are suggestions for a workplace to prepare for various political views:
To prevent activity inside the workplace from affecting morale, becoming disruptive, interfering with performance and productivity, becoming a discrimination issue, or violating other policies, it is essential to monitor activity. The employer should treat workers consistently and ensure managers and supervisors are trained to do so as well. An employer has a responsibility for every worker’s safety and protecting their workplace rights, it is advisable for the employer to be watchful, mindful, and ready to address situations needing their leadership. A passive or laisse-faire approach opens the door to potential claims by affected people, whether due to rights being reproached or rights being prevented from being exercised.
The employer should set an example of being open to diverse opinions and views.
Diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) training has been exceedingly popular in recent years. If you have not had such training in your workplace before, this is a suitable time for it, as having an appreciation for differing perspectives and views is a central tenet. The leadership should model respect and care for others who vote differently. Recognize that political talk is not something to be prohibited. Politics affect workplaces through legislative acts and actions by elected officials, and outcomes can impact future strategy, current operations, tax structures, and more.
Decision-makers ought to be acquainted with political agendas that currently affect or may impact the business.
Political decisions can also have repercussions in personal lives. While disagreements in discussions are inevitable, it is in these moments that the modeling of respecting diverse opinions and reflecting on another person’s reasoning should be practiced. If the employer does catch something that works against the harmony, inclusivity, and productivity of the workplace, it should not be ignored. Leaders need to say something when words or actions are inappropriate to avoid unintentionally granting permission for others to do the same or to create retaliatory conditions.
Unaddressed issues affecting the workplace could become litigious, so it is best to act.
Have a respectful, separate conversation with the person(s) involved. Listen to their perspective and feelings. Help them feel supported and hear them well (exercise your diversity skills) but reinforce the company values and policy and the need to be open to diversity in the workplace.
Politics in the workplace can be difficult. Advisement or policy development may be needed for your workplace, and FIT HR may be able to assist. Contact us to arrange a discussion. We would like to help.