The Human Resource: No politics in the office

As the presidential debates ended, the two nominees escalated the harsh attacks and derogatory comments against one another. With election day closing in, people are getting more passionate about who they are supporting. Political opinions are often deep rooted in an individual’s personal, moral, and ethical beliefs. Individuals may have very specific alignment with a political party that defines their perspective and support for certain types of situations in life. Sharing, discussing, debating, or arguing about these beliefs in the workplace may not be an effective use of your time, and can create challenges and risk to the employer.

Here are a few reasons to avoid discussing politics in the workplace:

  1. The major controversial topics between the two major political parties create the potential for serious employee-relations issues as emotions can run high and conflict can ensue because of workplace debates of the issues. When employees from opposing parties discuss the issues, the personal connection to the topic can cause a polite conversation to escalation into an emotionally charged confrontation that should be avoided in the workplace.
  2. Employees sharing their opinions about political situations often lack actual information or details to support their views. While the employee may want to be “right” about their perspective, without all the facts everything is simply open to external interpretation. With this phenomenon happening on both sides of the political exchange, employees are attempting to be right and prove others wrong. This activity creates opposition between employees and can damage collaboration and teamwork.
  3. Business owners and business leadership should recognize political discussions between employees during work hours are a distraction and deter from job performance. If employees are spending time arguing or debating political topics, they are not focusing on their work and tasks assigned to them. This can result in negative performance outcomes.
  4. Heated conversations can lead to verbal or physical altercations. If this happens in the workplace, the employer will be exposed to workplace violence or at minimum violations of a code of conduct and workplace rules.
  5. Employees not directly involved in these discussions may develop animosity towards others due to time spent having these discussions instead of working. If permitted repeatedly the practice may be viewed as unfair or inconsistent management of employee performance or compliance with company rules.

For these five reasons and a host of others, it would be wise for an employee to just keep their opinions to themselves in the workplace and focus on the job at hand for which they are compensated for. For employers, encourage your supervisors and managers to pay attention to workplace discussions that distract their staff from completing their work or performing at the highest level possible. Employers should take immediate action when they observe conversations escalation or getting out of hand to avoid further risk.

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About Warren Cook

Warren is the President and co-founder of SymbianceHR and provides strategic oversight for service delivery, business operations, and technical guidance on consulting engagements. He is a human resources subject matter expert with over 25 years of experience as a strategic human resources business partner, project manager, and people leader across private and public sectors organizations. Warren is responsible for the strategic planning of all client consulting engagements from initial needs assessment and compliance review through delivery of customized strategic solutions that meet the client’s business goals. He has a proven track record of providing executive coaching and guidance to business leaders and human resource professionals at all levels including the C-Suite of Fortune 100 companies. Warren is also the Chief Talent Officer and cofounder of SymbianceHiRe, a Symbiance company dedicated to providing direct placement talent acquisition services and temporary and contract staffing solutions to the business community. Warren holds a B.S. in Human Resource Management, an MBA in Project Management, and a M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Warren is the author of “Applicant Interview Preparation – Practical Coaching for Today.”

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