Politics are often regarded as taboo conversation for the office. However, due to the hostile tone of the race and the personal nature of the issues at stake, the 2016 presidential election has sent shockwaves through the country. For many organizations, the immediate aftermath of the election is having a destabilizing effect on workplace culture and productivity that HR leadership must address.
According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, more than 1 in 4 employees have been negatively affected by discussions about the election at work, and are divided along gender and generational lines. The APA also reported:
Nearly half (47 percent) of all respondents said people are more likely to discuss politics in the workplace this election season than in the past. One in 5 reported avoiding some co-workers because of their political views, and more than one-quarter (27 percent) reported at least one negative outcome as a result of political discussions at work this election season.
HR leadership must accept that political conversations are happening, and attempt to diffuse their workforce’s hostility and stress post election. However, according to a recent study conducted by the Society of Human Resources, only a third of companies have a formal strategy in place for dealing with these situations. So here are a few tips for curbing political tension in the workplace:
How to Keep the Workplace Civil
- Provide a roadmap for affected workers to return to normalcy. Refocus your wellness initiatives on stress reduction, and refer employees to counseling resources when necessary.
- Bring your workforce together with a team-building exercise. Encourage them to put aside their differences, and remind them to focus on what they have in common.
- Remind workers that company computers are for business-related use, and not social media or political conversations.
- Seek legal counsel before disciplining any employee for political activities.
- Advise employees to be respectful and tolerant of each other’s views, political or otherwise.
- Meet with management to formalize conflict mediation policies.
It’s important to be sensitive to how the election is affecting your employees, and make sure that people from all backgrounds feel safe in the office. However, leadership must respectfully steer office communications back to the work at hand. While political tension will likely persist during this national period of transition, reducing political discourse in the workplace will not only improve productivity, but it will also prevent a toxic culture from developing, and give the people in your company a space to return their daily lives to normalcy.