If election-related political discourse is proving disruptive or difficult in your workplace, here are four proven best practices for managing how employees handle political disagreements to promote a civil and civic-minded atmosphere for everyone.
DO: Establish formal policies that discourage political speech and activity at work.
One easy option to manage political disagreements: turn your workplace into a “political safe zone” where political discussion is discouraged. “I try to discourage any type of political discussion in the workplace,” one business owner told the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “People get so heated. I try to make the workplace a safe zone, especially now with the pandemic.”
On the surface, you might think that employees would object to policies that discourage them from sharing political viewpoints, but according to a Glassdoor poll, despite the fact that over half of American workers say they have discussed politics while at work, nearly two-thirds (60%) consider discussing politics at work to be “unacceptable.”
DO: Carve out appropriate protections.
Bear in mind, however, that some federal and state laws may impose specific protections for political speech, so any policies will need to make appropriate allowances to comply with those regulations. For example, some political speech related to employment-specific issues may be protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). An employer cannot restrict employee communications about things like wages or conditions of employment, for instance.
DO: Foster a culture of civility.
Another step that employers can take is to foster an inclusive and diverse workforce where all kinds of differences, including political differences, are respected and dealt with in an atmosphere of civility. This is an issue of culture and leadership; and company managers, executives, and owners should model the behavior they wish to see in their workforce. It also helps to remind employees periodically, and perhaps even provide some training, regarding harassment, discrimination, and retaliation issues.
DON’T: Pick sides.
Employers and organizational leaders are not themselves immune from politics and likely hold their own political beliefs and viewpoints. However, no employer should coerce or require employees to adopt specific political beliefs or to take specific political actions. “Employers should be cautious if their support for one employee cause over another could be seen as indicative of some discriminatory animus,” Susan Groff, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Los Angeles, told SHRM.
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