While the midterm elections have passed, there are still a wide number of people strongly debating what current policy and events will mean to people’s futures. Passions are running high, and not every discussion ends up being civil. Managers must make sure that the discussion doesn’t divide staff members into angry, tribal camps, while at the same time make sure not to simply silence everyone’s views or attempt to force employees to take on management’s views. Employees need to be able to discuss how to handle the issues the best possible way.
1. Hold Transparent Discussions Between Staff and Management
Company leaders should allow employees the freedom to have discussions; banning all political conversations just causes further divide. Cultivate a culture where everyone feels welcome whether they are liberal, conservative or anywhere in-between. Don't force the political view of the executive team on the rest of the organization either.
2. Tell People to Keep It Lighthearted
Management should communicate to all employees that it is perfectly OK to engage in political discussion, as long as they keep it as lighthearted as possible. Encourage non-confrontational questions, rather than discussions about hot-button issues where there is little to no middle ground. Develop a culture that is respectful to others’ views and fosters an open mindedness.
3. Encourage A Culture of Respect
Whether the topic is politics or pay, employers should focus on promoting the organizational expectation of a respectful workplace. It is important that company leaders model this expectation in how they communicate and interact with employees. It's also important that the leadership team is trained on key actions and talk points when those discussions pop up in the workplace.
4. Redirect Conversations About Non-Work-Related Topics
Political opinions about non-work-related topics should not be discussed at work for the same reason personal matters should be left at the door: they have the potential to create a hostile work environment. However, a healthy dialogue about political matters that impact the business is important. Train managers to redirect to the issues that impact work life, not personal life.
5. Help People Gain Perspective
Reasonable people can disagree on movies, child rearing, sports, personal financial management strategies, educational institutions and so much more. When a disagreement becomes emotional, managers should help employees step back and try to recognize and appreciate diversity, the commonality of good intentions, and the work that diverse individuals can accomplish together.
6. Foster an Inclusive Environment
Educate your employees on the value and importance of having a diverse and inclusive environment. Let them know that dialogue is encouraged, but the office is not the environment for debates. If employees aren't open to hearing different points of view, they should refrain from starting and/or joining the conversation.