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How to Handle Political Differences in the Workplace

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Every individual has his or her own political beliefs. However, because political topics are so controversial and emotionally charged, discussions about different political beliefs can become heated quickly. For this reason, it is important for business owners and managers to know how they should react when political differences arise. Below are some tips to help you prepare for these potentially explosive situations. 

1. Know the law. 

Every state has laws that govern politics in the workplace. Knowing these laws can help you to deal with problems related to politics. For example, in many cases, private employers have the right to ask employees to remove partisan accessories, such as hats or T-shirts. Most employers will also be able to limit any political discussions that get in the way of employees fulfilling their responsibilities. However, certain topics are protected under employees' free speech, so you need to understand the specifics of these laws before you take any action. 

2. Don't ignore politics entirely. 

Trying to completely ignore political issues isn't reasonable, especially when something newsworthy happens. Political topics are probably going to come up occasionally even if you try to put a zero-tolerance policy into practice. Instead of trying to ban political talk, acknowledge the elephant in the room and remind your employees that their coworkers may have different views. Make it clear that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but that respect for one another is expected at all times. 

3. Consider implementing a formal policy for politics in the workplace. 

If your company does not already have a policy in place, consider creating a "politics in the workplace" policy that lets all employees know what to expect. Make sure this policy describes both rights and responsibilities. Before implementing the policy, take the time to explain it to all employees. It is also important to make sure that the policy you create complies with all applicable laws. 

4. Encourage employees to find common ground. 

When it comes to politics, it's easy for people to focus only on the issues that lead to disagreement. Encourage employees to look for shared concerns and ideas, as opposed to zeroing in on the things that cause division. Reminding employees that they share common ground can reduce the number and intensity of arguments while also improving collaboration. 

5. Be a peacemaker. 

As a manager or business owner, you likely have your own opinion on political issues as well. Rather than getting involved in political arguments and causing them to escalate further, be the voice of reason. Remain as calm as you can, even when you hear something you find upsetting. Instead of contributing more emotion to the conversation, speak evenly and try to deescalate it. If you cannot remain calm, choose to walk away until you have regained your composure. 

Politics in the workplace is a complicated issue for any business, but these tips can help you minimize its impact on your company's culture and productivity. For help with this issue or any other concern related to HR, please contact Employer Flexible