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Navigating Political Tension and Fostering a Positive Workplace

CoAdvantage- 2020 has seen a lengthy, emotional, and frequently tense race between two candidates strongly and passionately supported by each of their core bases. In this kind of environment, it’s easy for post-election day talk to tip into dangerous territory that can lead to temporary or ongoing fractures between different groups of employees with strongly held political beliefs.

But employers can help their teams remain strong in the face of intense political disagreement and tension in the aftermath of Election Day.

To start, many of the tips we described in our article on managing political speech in the workplace still apply. For example, remember that political speech as a whole is not protected, so you don’t have to let employees have a political free-for-all in the workplace. That means employers can legally call for a time-out or even ban on most political speech. Just keep in mind that some speech related to employment issues that may also have a political slant, like unionizing, is protected under the National Labor Relationships Act (NLRA), so you’ll want to carve out appropriate allowances.

Beyond that, what can employers do to help the workplace navigate a tense political environment?

  1. Understand that many employees are going to be checking news updates frequently.
  2. Plan on some fun recreational activities, like games, as a distraction and team-building event.
  3. Make sure diversity, anti-discrimination, and anti-harassment policies and training are updated.
  4. Enforce any relevant policies consistently according to your normal, established procedures.
  5. Make sure employees feel free to talk with managers or leaders without fear of repercussions.
  6. Make sure managers are prepared to handle some potentially difficult conversations.
  7. In extreme cases, be prepared to refer an employee to your EAP (Employee Assistance Program).
  8. Discourage gloating – and put a stop to it if it is observed.
  9. Discontinue discussions or arguments if they become heated or start going in circles.
  10. If needed, instruct employees to shelve conversations about the election altogether – at least temporarily.
  11. On that note, make sure managers understand when and where to draw the line – e.g., it’s one thing to express views on immigration, another to disparage and denigrate immigrants.
  12. In fact, discouraging political conversion might be a salve to those who are just plain exhausted by all election talk and coverage.
  13. Don’t forget social media: make sure workplace social media policies are updated and enforced to try to avoid any ill-advised and controversial political speech that workers might move online.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.