Avoiding Political Discussions at Work

Interaction between employees is very much encouraged in the workplace. However, this does not mean that they can talk everything under the sun.

In a workplace that prides itself of diversity, opinions about politics, religious beliefs, sexual activities and other non-worker issues, should be avoided most of the time. Such discussions risk offending coworkers, create division in the workplace, and intensifies unneeded tension.

In the long run, it may even create a hostile work environment and potential long-term hard feelings among coworkers. Exceptions to this guide include settings that are dependent on a particular set of beliefs, like a Democratic Party field office, an environmental lobby group, or an Episcopalian church.

As a supervisor, you need to deal with this issue as you would any other potentially-negative situations that can turn into conflict between people.

Balance between employees freedom of expression and potential source of conflict – Casual discussions during the work day, when it is not interfering with work, is crucial for developing positive work relationships. These relationships are essential for positive employee morale and retention.

However, you need to set simple and non-oppressive guidelines about sensitive discussions topics. You may either tell your employees to avoid argument-prone discussion topics or apply the "respect other’s opinion" rule.

Manage the potential conflict before it escalates – Remind people that political discussions that can harm interpersonal relationships should be dealt outside the workplace.

Consider a ban on potentially-harmful articles – Your office may want to adopt a policy that bans the display of political, religious, and other such articles, slogans, or objects that could potentially create conflict among employees.

Remind employers of the policies – Make sure your policies are posted and that the employees are trained in the process of filing a complaint in case a violation occurred.

Apply progressive discipline – Start off with a warning on the first offense, then gradually progressing into stiffer actions such as suspension without pay for repeated offenses.

Train your employees to respect each other – Emphasize that they belong in a workplace that has respect for different ideas, beliefs, and needs. Make sure your Code of Conduct clearly states the need to honor diverse opinions, beliefs, and goals.

 
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