Expert Advice on How to Navigate and Minimize the Effects of Current Political Issues in the Workplace

Friday, August 12, 2022

Politics can cause a lot of tension between family members, friends and coworkers. But can you ban political talk in the office? And should you?

Article 6 Minutes
How to Navigate and Minimize the Effects of Current Political Issues in the Work

Do you hear that noise in the office? Your workers are quarreling about politics. Again.

Are they ever going to stop and can you ban such conversations?


Can you do anything about it and minimize unpleasant effects of such political debates?


But why should you care, anyway? Let them talk about politics as much as they want and let sleeping dog lie, you say?

The problem is that the “dog” isn’t actually sleeping at all. And it can harm employee productivity and relationships, and ruin your company culture.

Can discussing political views at work truly do much harm? See below.

Why bother? Can political discussions be so destructive?

They can. And, in fact, they are.

Politically-colored conversations and attitudes cause social unrest at work:

  • According to a Robert Half survey, 66% of US professionals discuss political topics at work more often than they did before 2019
  • According to a Gartner’s poll, 31% of employees feel frustrated or stressed due to talking politics at work.
  • While 47% of the surveyed acknowledged the impact of the US elections on their ability to cope with tasks successfully.
  • Research from Perceptyx found that 42% of workers will consider leaving their jobs because of the political workplace climate.

So how should managers go about political polarization at work and address the issues it causes?

How can you navigate the sea of workplace politics?

Arm yourself with the necessary information and prepare to tackle troublesome issues on grounds of politics that may disturb workplace communications.

Learn the laws

Did you know there are some dedicated laws that protect employees’ rights to express their political opinions where they work? For example, in New Mexico.

“Boost your political intelligence and immerse yourself in the topic. Learn all applicable laws and statutes for handling political disagreements in the workplace. The legal landscape of this question can become your armor, if you know how to use it wisely.” - David Aylor, Founder and CEO of David Aylor Law Offices.

Debunk the myths

Desperate to sit out office politics? There’s no chance you’ll be able to get rid of it completely.

Instead, check some myths related to politics at workplaces and grasp why political talks are not pure evil.

Keep your cool

As a HR manager, you can’t be politically biased. Otherwise, you not only put your positive workplace culture in jeopardy, but also risk igniting fiercer tension among workers.

Avoid being over-emotional, too, or taking someone’s side when conversing about political issues.

Your workspace culture is getting too political? Here’s how to catch the problems

If things are getting heated in the office, there are a few things you can do too ensure your workplace culture isn’t getting too political or causing upset.

1. Identify the informal groups and their leaders

Discovering who your employees are, their tastes and political preferences, you may use this information to achieve compromises in a politically turbulent workplace environment and foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace.

Mind that informal leaders can either enhance or destroy your corporate identity. Sometimes, these are rather cunning political players in the office (gossipers, lobbyists, bullies, advisers, saboteur, etc.), so make sure you develop meaningful relationships with them.

2. Create a respectful environment

Respect is the key to a productive and happy work environment. Here’s how to achieve it:

  • Show that you actually care. Demonstrate your sincere interest, build credibility as a leader and nurture authentic relationships with the people that work for you.
  • Encourage transparency and clarity. Both transparency and trust in the workplace help employees feel safer in expressing their political perspectives, even when others may disagree. Honesty should also be cultivated through clear and open communication, as well as constructive feedback.
  • Promote constructive dialogue.
“You should teach your workers how to disagree and explain why they need to substitute the “I-am-right-you-are-wrong” battle with understanding of political viewpoints.” - Christopher Moore, CMO at QuietLight

3. Develop and implement clear-cut rules of conduct in the workplace

The First Amendment doesn’t apply to private firms. So technically, private employers can restrict political speech, unless the state has specific legislation that regulates political discrimination, when it comes to work places.

Some companies have already tried to shut down difficult conversations over politics in the office. Did it work? Well, not very well: for example, BaseCamp employees started quitting, while 5% of Coinbase workers (60 people in total) took the exit package after the ban.

A smarter way, perhaps, could be to regulate political behavior in the office by creating a handbook of rules to help you do the following:

  • Rely on the fundamental principles of a company culture
  • Outline the company values all employees should be working towards
  • Sweep out aggressive conduct and swear words from the office
  • Create a particular space for talking about politics
  • Work out a policy for politics-related activities

4. Drive workers’ concentration to tasks

“As a leader, you should try to steer conversations away from politics and shift your employees’ attention to the project goals and assignments.” – Logan Mallory, VP of Motivosity.

Keep your staff motivated to work rather than to fight verbally (or physically) discussing the political situation.

5. Take care of the emotional aspect (and negative emotions, in particular)

What if we told you that negative emotions can be transformed into beneficial activities?

“Yes, negative emotions like anger or sadness are not pleasant at all. But you can always turn emotional weaknesses into strengths and channel your employees’ emotions productively. For example, your workers may feel sad or even devastated, when their favorite party has lost the elections, but you can help them turn sadness into creativity. Sadness is one of the emotions that make us more creative.” - Anthony Martin, Founder and CEO at ChoiceMutual

If you discover angry employees trying to get back at each other because of their political tastes, find the place for them to blow off steam and turn their anger into motivation, ensuring a healthy competition in the workplace.

You can keep the peace now or at least reduce political noise in the office

Debates on whether discussing politics at work is a bad thing or a good thing aren’t going away. Neither are the workplace talks over current political issues.

In the politically polarized era of today, it’s rather tough-going for HR managers to navigate workplace politics, but not impossible.

Can you ban politics at work? Well, you can try, if it’s legal in your state.

But is banning a super-productive response to the issue? And can you ever draw an objective and concise line between “politics” and “non-politics”?

A wiser solution is to follow the above tips from experts on how to cope with the effects of political issues in the workplace and mitigate the turbulence provoked by them.

Jesse Galanis

Jesse is a professional writer whose aim is to make complex concepts easy to understand. He strives to provide quality content that assists people in everyday life.


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