If your team has anywhere upwards of 5 people, it is inevitable that at least one of them will disagree with another about politics. No industry is immune to this – not even the charity sector.
Therefore, all managers and business owners must be mindful of politics in the daily running of their business. If your staff are constantly at loggerheads about politics, it isn’t good for anyone!
In the blog below, we’ve taken a look at how you can manage a team with varying political views in the workplace.
Don’t ban political discussions!
A 2022 study on Politics in the workplace found that 83% of people have discussed politics at work. This number proves that, whether you like it or not, political discussions are inevitably going to take place – and banning them is therefore impractical.
Furthermore, it is likely to harm your team culture (not improve it) by creating barriers on what your staff can or can’t say. Employees do not appreciate being stifled – especially about things that impact every aspect of their lives.
Instead of banning political discussions altogether, see below for how you can establish what is/isn’t appropriate.
Distribute a handbook regarding what is/isn’t appropriate
Although you should not ban political discussions in the workplace, that does not mean you should allow people to say whatever they want, whenever they want. A handbook which outlines appropriate and inappropriate behaviour enables you to get the balance just right.
Ideally, you will consult with an HR professional to get your handbook created. This handbook can be distributed to your employees when they join the company, and should outline:
- Your company’s approach towards political discussions (it doesn’t discriminate)
- What is/isn’t acceptable behaviour
- How disgruntled employees should report incidents
- The difference between an opinion and harassment/hate speech
As a manager, you place yourself in a significantly stronger position when you establish the ground rules when an employee first joins the company. It will give you clear guidelines to stick to in the future – and will also ensure that all employees know what they are signing up for.
Distinguish between political discussion and hate speech
When you make political discussions permissible in the workplace, you may occasionally have employees complaining to you about things their colleagues have said. This is an unfortunate inevitability.
However, just because one of your employees has complained about something, it does not necessarily mean that you must sanction the other person involved.
Treat each incident on case-by-case basis – and clearly distinguish between political opinion and hate speech. Is your staff member complaining because their colleague has said something legitimately out of line, or are they complaining simply because they hold a different opinion?
It is important that you do not punish people simply for having different views, if they have done nothing wrong. Get a clear sense of what happened in the incident by speaking to multiple people – and then explain your decision (be it to take action or not) to the person who complained.
Consider training sessions about mutual respect
If you are concerned about varying political views in the workplace, you may want to consider hosting a training session focused on mutual respect. In an ideal world, this will be hosted by a person/organisation outside your business, as it will reassure employees that the individual they are learning from is unbiased.
Ask the trainer to cover topics such as:
- Respecting varying political views
- How to report hate speech, if you hear it
- Why differing views is a good thing
- The importance of mutual respect
This session will hopefully give your team a chance to reflect and appreciate how differing views can enrich our lives and our work.
Hold yourself to the same standards
All great leaders in history lead by example – and it should be no different in your business. Create a tolerant, open work environment which you would like to be a part of – and then exhibit those same values, every day.
Every few months, it may be a good idea to remind yourself of the approach to political discussions outlined in your handbook. It is important that you hold yourself to the same standards as your employees.
Furthermore, it is essential that you remain fair and balanced in all circumstances, because your employees cannot feel like their career is being negatively impacted by having different opinions to you. Even if you discover an employee has different political views to you, you must remain fair and impartial – not only for the benefit of your company, but so you are not vulnerable to lawsuits.
Dealing with a politics-related conflict? Want guidance on managing team members with different views? HR Initiatives are trained, experienced consultants with years’ experience managing teams with varying political views. We have encountered almost every possible difficulty around this topic – and are on-hand to help you. Contact us today on email@example.com or call 01438 742 056 to discuss how we can help.