This is it, election day! Just the midterms, but midterms with record turnout. When passions run this high, you can bet that some colleagues get into a heated discussion about their political positions. While it’s great that Americans are more engaged with politics than usual, it’s not so great when it spills over into the break room, leaving workers feeling attacked, abused, or mocked for their beliefs.
It’s virtually impossible for companies to stop all political discussion at the workplace, so instead approach it from the perspective of how to keep it civil and appropriate for the location. Organizations can start by having an at-work conversation policy. Psychology Today offers this template:
“We allow free speech and you have the right to your opinion about political, social, national, or international events. The only exception is hateful language in the workplace that a reasonable person – not an attorney or an HR specialist – would find racist, sexist, humiliating, belittling, gossiping, threatening, violent, or bullying.
We will only intervene in conversations that distract employees from doing their jobs, waste company time, or impact our operations in a negative way. We will ask our managers and supervisors to monitor employee conversations – but not micro-manage their people – to make sure our business interests, compensated time, and human and professional assets are being used appropriately.”
And if you end up in a heated conversation with a colleague about politics? Here are a few tips to de-escalate the situation.
- If you’re okay with the conversation continuing, be sure to remain respectful, and be open-minded to the other person’s viewpoint. Just remember that if it starts interfering with work getting done, your managers are going to notice, and they’re not going to like it.
- End the conversation, politely. Use the excuse of having a meeting or other work obligation if you don’t want to state that you are uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation. If you aren’t in the conversation any longer, it can’t continue to escalate.
- Even in after work casual situations, keep your opinions light. You need to co-exist with your colleagues at work, no matter you, or they, may say outside of work hours in an informal environment. Remain professional, no matter where you are.
If you need a little more guidance check out some of our management tools surrounding this explosive topic:
- Politics in the Workplace: How to Legally Manage Politically Charged Activity at Work
- How to Legally Manage & Respond to Political Protests, Strikes and Absenteeism
- Employee Conduct: How to Legally Monitor and Regulate Employee Behavior On and Off the Clock