A How-To… Keeping Politics Out of the Office

A How-To… Keeping Politics Out of the Office
In September 2017 

we discussed WHY politics should be kept out of the office.
As a follow-up, let’s talk about HOW to do it…
Now that 2018 is here, I’m sure we can agree that 2017 was one of the most unusual years for many reasons. In addition to major cultural and social unrest as a sign of our times, the volatile political situation in this country has caused extreme bitterness, rancor, and defamation across the political spectrum. While some lament the loss of decorum at the highest levels of government and business, others lament the personal dramas unfolding in their own lives, such as finding affordable housing or losing a loved one to the opioid crisis. It seems that if you don’t follow the news minute-to-minute you will miss another breaking news story or tweet.
I joke with people that talking politics is a sure way to ruin a dinner party. I know people who avoid watching the news altogether in order to minimize stress. The way we understand that political conversations can be disruptive to even the closest family relationships is evidence of a shared desire and tendency to avoid it at all costs.
Politics is a sore subject, indeed. For that reason it should be kept out of the office environment to the greatest extent possible. Allowing politics to enter the workplace can sow division and discord among coworkers who rely on each other to carry out their jobs. Even a casual political discussion can quickly turn into a shouting match and may lead to team members passing harsh judgment of others’ ideas and opinions. If kept unchecked you may find yourself with employee retention, client acquisition, and revenue generation issues.
As a professional, neutrality of opinion must be a strategy to keep politics from affecting your work. You can still be passionate about causes near to you (and you’re absolutely encouraged to be politically active and aware!), but for the betterment of the office you should not seek to inject politics into your day to day.
How to avoid it?  Here are three tips on how you can help to make sure that politics are kept out of your office:
Establish a “politics-free” code of behavior and communicate the policy to all of your employees.
  • In general, having a code of behavior helps employees understand what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the office. Having a section devoted to politics will eliminate any uncertainty about what the company deems acceptable political discourse.
  • Formalize the policy by putting it in writing and directing managers and supervisors to review it with their direct reports. While you cannot control what happens outside of the office, you should explain that political conversations around the water cooler can lead to tense and precarious relationships between coworkers. The stability of the company hinges on their acceptance and following of the code of behavior.
Ask your supervisors to be vigilant and speak with employees who are being too vocal and demonstrative about their political leanings.
  • While business owners may be too busy and unable to closely observe daily interactions on a micro level, your supervisors must follow their team’s behavior and be aware if staff runs afoul of the code of behavior governing political talk. Supervisors should be proactive and speak to employees who they believe are being “too open” about their personal brand of politic. If there is a written complaint against that employee you may need to bring the issue before Human Resources before it affects the team further.
Be sensitive to the potential volatility of the situation.
  • Politics has always been a topic that is best kept out of the office; in that regard this year is no different than any other. As a business owner you must lead by example and demonstrate respect for everyone’s point of view regardless if it is extremely different from your own. Remember that a diversity of opinions is a good thing.
The goal is to maintain productivity without allowing politics to undermine your company’s cohesiveness and effectiveness. Politicians will come and go but your business must survive.

January 9, 2018