The presidential race may be over, but the talk is far from it. In fact, conversation may be even more heated than it was in November.
There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the age-old question: Is it OK to talk about politics in the office?
Luckily, there are a few ways you can navigate these rough waters. After all, political talks gone awry can damage everything from co-worker relationships to productivity – not to mention the potential of it spiraling into a hostile work environment claim.
Implement these 4 strategies the next time you hear the dreaded politics talk in your office.
1. Encourage them to walk away
When it comes to political views, people get defensive and take things personally. Each person has a reason for believing what he or she believes. Remind your employees to be respectful of other people’s opinions, and understand why another person might feel the way they do about a certain subject.
Regardless, at some point one worker’s “side” will likely be under attack by someone who doesn’t abide by the “no-politics talk” rule in the office. So it’s only natural for the person to want to defend his or her opinion. As a manager, it’s your job to remind staffers: No one is going to win this argument.
The best move in this situation is to just walk away before things get out of control.
2. Know where to draw the line
Things get heated quickly, meaning it’ll be difficult for your employees to know where to draw the line –so make sure it’s been drawn for them.
One idea: Have a written policy regarding political conversations and actions.
According to the Society of Human Resource Management, 25% of employers have one. So if your company doesn’t already have one, now’s a good time to think about it. Think about every aspect you want to cover, such as no political clothing, decorations or posters in employees’ workspaces, etc.
And don’t forget to include social media in this, too. Remind your team they represent your company on Facebook and Twitter. Odds are, they’re friends with their co-workers on Facebook. Comments made online can just as easily spill over into the workplace.
3. Follow the leader
Leaders play a huge role in setting the tone for what’s OK – and what’s not – in the workplace. Since employees are more likely to follow your lead, your part is critical here.
And while you can’t prevent employees from talking about it, you can require them to be respectful and behave professionally. There’s a time and a place for this kind of talk – and as a manager, it’s your decision when that is. Any time other than a break is not a good time to discuss politics, period.
4. Keep your team informed
From a legal standpoint, things can get tricky when it comes to whether or not you can outright forbid employees to talk about politics. So who can? Other employees.
If Employee A is talking to Employee B about politics, and things start getting tense, all Employee B has to say is: This isn’t a conversation I want to have.
Ideally, Employee A will drop it. But if she doesn’t, it’s time for you to step in.
Take this line from Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas and offer it to your team to stop these conversations: “This is a no-win conversation. I think we need to keep our views outside the boardroom.”
Using these tips as ground rules will keep things productive – and calm – in the office. It gives employees the right to speak openly but also serves as a reminder to be respectful and professional.