By Michael Redmond
BBRS Senior Manager, Human Resources Field Support
Election Day is months away, but emotions are already running high this political season. What does a manager do when tense, even abrasive political discussions enter the workplace?
An early warning: state and local laws regarding political activities vary, so check with your local labor department before you make bold decisions.
Political debates in the workplace can disrupt productivity. When these debates get heated, they can create tensions to anyone within earshot, and in some cases, can become hostile.
A CareerBuilder poll taken during the 2012 mid-term elections found that 42 percent of respondents avoid talking about politics at work. Another 44 percent said they talked about it, but shut down the conversation when it got heated, and 14 percent said they engaged in lively political debates at work.
According to a Fierce Inc. survey in 2012, 78 percent of respondents said political discussions in the workplace cause coworker tension. Of those, 27 percent said political conversations temporarily harm or permanently damage work relationships.
As an employer, you have an expectation that your employees are being productive, and not arguing over the points of the latest presidential debate during a project meeting.
While you don’t want to – and legally, can’t – stifle such discussions, you also have a responsibility to provide a safe, respectful workplace. Heated political clashes open opportunities for hostile work environments, as well as discrimination or harassment claims.
So what can you do to support your employees while maintaining workplace serenity? Here are some ideas:
Michael Redmond has more than 30 years of HR, employee and labor relations, and training experience. He develops and provides anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training to parent company Bristol Bay Native Corporation and its subsidiaries.