Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, it’s been hard to ignore this year’s election. Every time you turn on the television or open up your social media accounts, the hype and unsolicited opinions of your Facebook friends swarm your newsfeed.
The publicity and attention that both presidential candidates are receiving continues to generate conversation and debates. Unfortunately, these conversations that are typically held between close friends and family members have made their way into the workplace.
What happened to the concept of never discussing religion or politics at work?
The laid back, casual working environment that many of us have adapted to is blurring the lines between professional and personal conversation. Although we may feel comfortable sharing our beliefs with our work buddies, it can tarnish relationships, create angst amongst coworkers, and leave some negative lasting effects including, but not limited to:
- Isolated and Bullied Coworkers- Once your people begin to engage in long, heated, political discussions, cliques will begin to form based purely off of ideology. Some employees may respond in an aggressive manner, which may end in a direct trip to HR. Other employees may sit back silently holding in their frustration. Thus, resulting in a divided, angry, and disengaged workplace- an absolute HR nightmare.
- Decreased Productivity- High productivity is a direct result from employees that work together as a team towards one common goal. Unfortunately, if your people don’t have appropriate guidelines on what is acceptable work conversation their focus will shift towards discussing economic policy and less on completing their initiatives. On top of a divided workforce, you are now left with an inefficient, distracted, and unproductive team.
- Damaged Relationships and Compliance Risk- There are many employees that work great together professionally even though their personal interests, thoughts, and views may not be aligned. By sharing your stance on a political candidate or policy, you are jeopardizing your relationships with not just coworkers, but potentially your supervisor. As HR leaders, we should be concerned that political conversations taken out of context can often be associated with some form of discrimination or bias which is a huge risk to any organization.
The best advice is that of which our parent gave us - don’t discuss politics or religion outside of your inner circle. By stating your opinion on the election, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of losing credibility, the trust of your team members, and potentially your job. Stay focused on your work and politely decline engaging in political conversations pre and post the election season.