Human Resources: Managing Political Discussions.

Human Resources: Managing Political Discussions.

Digital courage and the ease of sharing opinions have led to many horrible comments and to the idea that everyone has a valid opinion on any topic. While this may be troubling enough online, a risk exists that this behavior can become normalized. When that happens, the failure of verbal filters can create workplace conflict.

The 2016 presidential election has generated harsh opinions against both candidates by much of the population. People can scarcely believe that anyone could be foolish enough to vote for the candidate they oppose. Such casually absolute positions, along with a reduced verbal filter, can produce offhanded disrespectful remarks. While such barbs may be aimed at a candidate, they may also be unintentionally aimed at coworkers.

With a few specific exceptions, employers are generally able to bar political speech at work. Since there is value in employees being able to talk freely, such a policy should probably not be the first tool. However, the fact that such a prohibition is possible can be part of a discussion with employees to encourage them to remain respectful. Some key points to remind employees when discussing politics:

Ask yourself if it really worth discussing at work

Be sensitive to others

Topics (e.g. taxes) not identities (e.g. Republicans)

If employees remain in bounds, it may be best to simply let the silly season finish. If there is a history of such talk causing division, disrespect, and hostility, it may be necessary to create a policy, in compliance with any applicable law governing the specific workplace.

The best management uses the least amount of control needed to achieve the goal. Helping employees self-examine their behavior should be the first option. If we can help in supporting your HR needs, please contact us.