In today’s divisive political climate, it is tempting for employers to adopt universal policies that prohibit political discussion in the workplace. While this might seem like the safest option, it’s naïve for employers to think they will be able to prevent their employees from talking politics. Research shows that more than half of American employees report that political discussions have been more common over the past four years. More than half also reported they have had at least one political disagreement with a co-worker. Given that these workplace political discussions are inevitable, employers would be wise not to simply turn a blind eye to political talk.
Aside from this practical consideration, there are good reasons why employers should want to encourage an environment that promotes civil and inclusive political discussions. All employers should value diversity and inclusion, and this should include diversity and inclusion of different political views. Until recently, discussions of racial and gender equality were thought to be inappropriate for the workplace, but now it would be unthinkable to tell an employee not to talk about being Black, female, etc. Many would argue that their political beliefs are no less central to their identities than their race or sex, and therefore employers should do everything in their power to make sure their workers don’t feel excluded because of their views. Here is a simple guide to talking politics at work.
- Encourage friendly discussion. The purpose of political discussions in the office should never be to debate, fight, or belittle coworkers. It should be to share diverse opinions in a safe and honest environment. This means that all participants in the discussion should remain civil and open to different points of view.
- Assure employees they will not face retaliation or judgment for their politics. Not only will this ensure that all employees feel welcome, but it will also encourage them to remain civil while they discuss politics with co-workers.
- Don’t impose your own views on employees. Employers have political beliefs, just like everyone else, but they need to make it clear to their employees that their personal views are not the views of the company as a whole, and that employees should feel free to disagree with them. Not only will this make employees feel comfortable, but it will prevent workers from feeling like they need to go find another employer who agrees with their politics.
Employers’ Company Handbooks should reflect these policies. If you have any questions about how to manage political discussions at work, or any area of employment law, contact Thatcher Law Firm at 301-441-1400. www.ThatcherLaw.com. Email me at [email protected].
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