If you’re in a regular office environment the people you work with are likely the people you spend the most time with. You don’t want to ruin your relationship with them or make it more difficult by talking politics. The truth is, if you’re having the conversation to try and persuade your colleague to join your side, to see your way of thinking, statistics say that just isn’t going to happen. In fact, the more likely outcome is that your co-worker will dig in their heels and put up even stronger arguments against your position. Here’s another thing; it’s your private business. There is a reason we vote by secret ballot. It also can create a bias and distrust between team members. In fact a recent Forbes poll found that employees in the majority political group at an organization are twice as likely as those in the minority group to avoid interacting and working with others who are on the opposite side of the fence politically. There is no way to move forward with the creativity they were hired for if people don’t trust one another and work together.. And, maybe worth the most thought, it is also possible that bringing this type of rhetoric into the office could tick off your boss enough to hinder your career.
So what can the boss do about it?
The boss can put an end to these conversations, even ban them outright, if they are causing distractions or tensions in the workplace. There are some labour-related issues such as unionizing, wages and working conditions that are protected under the National Labor Relations Act in the United States and under the Canadian Labour Code in Canada. It would be worth brushing up on the legislation that affects you before you find yourself in a situation that requires knowledge.
The Human Resources department has, in most cases, become the arbiter where conflicts arise. In some small businesses it might be “HR, party of one”, or maybe just the owner when you’re just starting out. Even with limited knowledge of HR practices, there are a fer things you can do:
Lots more to it, but this is a good start.
Is it that easy a question?
Maybe not. There are those who believe that talking politics in the workplace can be useful and is maybe unavoidable. Work relationships generally begin with what some call “Tier 1” communications; talking about things like sports, weather, pop-culture, etc. But as time progresses it is natural for people to have more substantive conversations, and it is as likely as not that politics will be introduced. While most experts will agree that talking politics at work is a tricky business, Joseph Grenny, coauthor of Crucial Conversations and cofounder of VitalSmarts, a corporate training company, believes learning how to talk about politics in a productive manner can help you “manage other difficult conversations at work,” including peer performance reviews or disagreements over strategy and policy. Politics is just another topic where “emotions run strong, the stakes are high, and opinions vary,” he says.