Once upon a time, people kept their work and personal lives separate, including their political views. Today? Not so much.
An increasing number of organizations and business leaders are weighing in on various hot button issues and policies. Meanwhile, millions of customers are choosing to vote with their dollars and their loyalty based on company values, including political views and activity.
Depending on what industry you’re in, you may not be able to avoid discussing certain policy implications with your colleagues, clients, and customers, no matter how badly you want to. It is literally part of the job.
Whether you’re working in an industry that’s affected by changing legislation, a business that’s taking a particular stand, or an organization that is actively talking about issues internally, here are some ways you can effectively navigate this new reality.
Make some rules
Are your employees spending a significant amount of time arguing, debating, or talking about politics at work? Are things getting a little heated around the water cooler or in the break room?
According to SHRM, only 24% of professionals said their organizations have a written policy about political activities at work. And while this may be new territory for many businesses, it’s certainly worth considering.
Even if you adamantly believe political discussion is a healthy endeavor, at some point you need to acknowledge that it could be affecting workplace productivity and morale. Having a clear, consistently applied policy in place will help minimize lost productivity, employee conflict, and potential discrimination or harassment lawsuits.
If there is a particular issue or policy that affects how you do business, you don’t need to ignore it. What you do need to do is keep the discussion relevant, constructive, and civil.
- Talk about specific changes and the implications for how they could affect your industry, operations, and clients.
- Focus on what you can do to educate people about what is going on and mitigate any confusion or complications that may arise.
- If a controversial issue has no bearing on the work at hand, don’t let it get dragged into the fray.
If you want to talk about other polarizing issues, wait until they are relevant in another business-related context, or save it for your lunch date. (Please note: Rules of civility still apply.)
Do your homework
If your job/industry is directly affected by political decisions and outcomes, you should really know what the heck is going on. Educate yourself on relevant issues, seek out credible sources, and always be sure to fact check your information.
If your main news source is your brother-in-law’s neighbor or your Aunt Irma’s Facebook page, it’s time to up your game. As a trusted advisor to your clients, you cannot afford to be sharing inaccurate data, rumors, or half-truths.
Have a heart
If getting political at work is the new business/political reality, it will require some new rules of engagement.
Never assume the people you’re working with feel the same way you do politically. People are complex, issues are complicated, and politics are bigger than any one person, one issue, or one vote. Even if you’re not personally affected by any of the issues making headlines, you probably have friends, family, clients, and/or colleagues who are. Their feelings may range from sad to elated to angry to confused to devastated. Recognize this and be kind.
Whether you agree or disagree with your co-workers and their views, the fact of the matter is this: When you’re at work, you’re on the same team. So play nice, help each other out, and treat each other with respect.
That way, everybody wins.
Running into challenges with employee engagement, turnover, and retention? At Raffa Financial, we’ve got ideas to help you address these issues and more. Get in touch to find out what working with a true employee benefits consultant feels like.
Photo by Brian A Jackson