Updated November 2021. First published 2020.
While politics have always been a rather sensitive area to navigate, our recent elections in the U.S. (at every level) and our conflicting views on how to navigate events (like a pandemic) show that diametrically opposite views have become and feel increasingly personal.
Despite where one may personally land on the political spectrum, the division wedged over the past few years has further entrenched individuals in their views. Such opposing beliefs can easily, if not certainly, permeate the workplace.
While employers cannot govern what people believe, below are some suggestions that HR professionals can take to help set expectations around behavior so that differences amongst staff do not devolve into a toxic work environment.
Host training sessions on building a respectful workplace culture.
Establish internal definitions of opinion, harassment, bullying, and undermining actions to identify and address specific behaviors.
Due to their potential influence, encourage managers to abstain from political discussions or comments (particularly with their subordinates).
Limit or ban visual displays in the office such as, but not limited to, campaign flyers, stickers, and broadcasts with political content.
Further, it would be optimistic to assume that communications on social media will not permeate into the workplace. As such, employers should review social media policy to ensure key elements such as those listed below:
Establish expected behavioral norms in the use of social networking.
Educate team about being mindful of their privacy settings, being polite, and exercising good judgment.
Provide guidelines regarding social media networking that could be associated with or negatively impact the organization, employees, or customers.
Encourage the use of disclaimers or speak in the first person to clarify that opinions are not those of their employer.
It is important to note that the goal is not to ban certain types of speech, as there are laws that protect such but, more so, to help create a receptive and respectful space.
At the end of the day, there is value in a diversity of opinions, and organizations should appreciate the different perspectives each individual can bring to a team. However, employers and HR leaders alike can set the expectation that individuals will be held accountable for abrasive behaviors that conflict with established policies. In doing so, we can help foster both inclusion and a more productive conversation.
If you have additional questions about any of your policies, please do not hesitate to reach out to Kiwi Partners' HR Services.