With the country going through so many emotions of being so divided yet at the same time so united when it comes to wanting the best for the country, heated political conversations will find their way into the workplace too. Companies need to take necessary measures to unite their workforce through engagement activities.
The elections held on the 3rd of November 2020 and the weeks leading up to it were one of the most historic periods in US history for several reasons. The elections yielded the highest voter turnout in the last century. These elections not only had the highest turnout but also held the record for the highest number of women who voted, the highest number of Hispanics, African American, Asian and other races who voted, and lastly, the highest number of young voters aged 18-30. We could not be in a better time where most of the population are so proactively involved in the country’s future.
While the country is united in wanting the best for the future, it is also greatly divided by the belief in which political party is the best side to lead us into a brighter future. The last few weeks and months have seen rallies, protests, and an agitated population making or breaking relationships based on political leanings. You’ve probably done it yourself - have you looked differently at someone you’ve been friends with for a long time, or a relative or a co-worker once you found out they are for the opposite team? Should that affect your life, your environment, or your relationship? Should that affect your work?
Right now is when most of your employee population may know what side their fellow colleagues stand on, and this might affect how they approach one another, how they work with one another, and just how they feel about each other. What is key right now is to make sure to keep your work environment as productive and respectful as possible.
In an ideal world, politics would be left out of the workplace, but that is not possible. Because so many issues on the table affect economic policies, pandemic management, and social issues, it is almost impossible to keep politics out of the workplace. According to Gartner 47% of employees report being distracted at work by the U.S. Presidential Election. 78% of employees report discussing politics at work. When it comes to productivity, 26% of employees say the election has had a moderate or big impact on their ability to do their jobs. 36% of employees report that the topic of the 2020 U.S. presidential election has led them to avoid talking to or working with a co-worker because of their political views. 31% of employees who talk politics at work report these conversations to be stressful and/or frustrating.
“To minimize the negative impacts of politics on the workplace, HR leaders must ensure that employee emotions and behaviors associated with the current political environment don’t distract and disengage the workforce or create a hostile work environment”, says Brian Kropp, chief of research in the Gartner HR practice.
1. Maintaining Productivity And Respect In The Workplace During And After Elections
As the ballots are being counted and everyone is in the in-between stage of just waiting for results, employee opinions and individual viewpoints will keep rising, employers must do what they can to not let the elections vex the workplace, avoid conflict, and maintain productivity. Extra measures must be taken post-election results too, as there could be turmoil and unrest by the opposing party once the winning party is announced. Here are the necessary steps every employer in the U.S. must take to avoid political conflict in the workplace.
2. Reinforce empathy, compassion, and code of conduct within the workplace
Political conversations have a high probability of becoming heated fairly quickly should the involved parties not consider the thoughts and beliefs of the opposing party. It is up to management to monitor (discreetly) only to ensure that these conversations do not escalate and also to make sure that the employees remember to exercise empathy as well as remember that each individual is entitled to their own thoughts and beliefs as long as it isn’t enforced on others.
3. Address trending national issues within organizational policies and beliefs (inclusion, diversity, equal opportunity, health benefits, etc)
Every issue that is being addressed nationally should be reflected internally too. Whether it be maternal and paternal leave or equal pay for women, equal opportunity for all regardless of their race, gender, background etc. Update the company’s mission, vision, values and policies regularly. Keep the employees informed of these changes and make it clear that their opinion and thoughts count by encouraging them to share how they feel about the company, policies, issues that need to be addressed or any changes made.
4. Publish a memo on zero tolerance towards aggression, harassment, discrimination, and bullying due to any political-related or otherwise issue.
Saying the company has a zero-tolerance policy towards aggression, harassment, etc. and ensuring that such a thing really does exist is when every employee is notified and it is exercised. Publish a memo, distribute it, have management talk about it, hold a workshop on how to be more compassionate of others, and how to maintain a certain decorum in the workplace. Have a counsellor come in and work with those who seem to have an issue with harassment, aggression, etc. Showing your employees that you are taking the necessary steps to remove negativity from the workplace will motivate them to also do the same.
5. Conduct fun and light-hearted engagement activities to distract the masses from politics and promote team building.
During heated spans of time where everyone could easily be divided and eager to argue it is best to keep those discussions out of the workplace and work on developing work relationships and team building. Fun activities help to alleviate the mood and help employees forget about the outside problems. Conduct engagement activities that will not only help with team building within departments but also cross department if possible.
In times when the nation seems so divided everyone needs to do their part to make sure that we as people are as united as possible and this goes for every single organization too. Make your employees feel safe in an environment that is open to all types of people and beliefs without discriminating against anyone for anything.