Politics is one of the biggest hot-button issues people talk about, and even though the standard recommendation is to avoid discussing the subject entirely, many people just can’t resist. While that’s fine when the conversation is confined to Facebook, it’s a different story when it involves your employees. The last thing you need is a bad vibe at your office because of some employees’ argument over foreign policy. With the correct approach, you can strike that delicate balance between respecting your employees’ free speech and avoiding any spats.
Lead by Example
Many of your employees look to you as a leader to figure out what’s appropriate for the office. You can’t expect your workers to refrain from sharing their thoughts on politics if you have no trouble sharing yours. It’s best to keep your own politics out of the office, whether you’re speaking to multiple employees or just one in private.
Set Firm Boundaries
It’s up to you regarding what guidelines you set to manage political discussions. The strictest approach is to prohibit political discussions entirely, but this can be difficult to enforce without feeling like you’re policing your employees.
Another option is to put together a written conduct policy that covers the kinds of problems that can arise due to political discussions. For a thorough conduct policy, make sure to mention:
- The importance of employees being respectful to one another
- Recognizing when someone else is uncomfortable with a topic of conversation
- Keeping personal discussions to a minimum when working
Steer Conversations to Issues Instead of Parties
If your employees start a political discussion, try to guide the conversation towards the issues instead of letting it devolve into arguments for one party over another. Unless all your employees have the same political affiliation, discussions that pit party against party are never going to end well.
Focus on issues the country is facing and what some potential solutions might be. The goal is a discussion where everyone gets to make their points constructively and understand other people’s opinions a bit better.
Be Prepared to Defuse Conflicts
An important and often-underappreciated part of running a business is keeping employee morale high. The atmosphere at the office is better this way, and employees are more productive. When a political discussion gets out of hand, it’s up to you to smoothly resolve the conflict. If you’re present for the conversation, watch for warning signs that people are getting uncomfortable or tempers may start to flare. The moment you think either could happen, calmly let everyone know that it’s time to put an end to that topic.
Your job is a bit harder if the issues are occurring when you’re not around. For example, you could have an employee who is simply outspoken and frustrating their colleagues. Here, you should speak with the employee in question privately. Without being too critical, explain that the office isn’t the place for talking politics, as you don’t want anyone else to feel uncomfortable.
Whether you allow political talk in the office depends on what you and your employees are comfortable with. If you do, keep an eye on any discourse to avoid having disagreements turn into a bigger problem.