IAN FERGUSON: Stopping politics getting out of hand in workplace

As the US remains embroiled in election turmoil, the topic of politics in the workplace again surfaces. How vocal should employees be on topics of religion, sexual orientation and political persuasion? With the start of our Bahamian political season looming, how employees talk about their party of choice and opposing political views matters. We all know how distracting political aggression and banter can be in the workspace. Efforts to minimise this confusion, while not thwarting free speech, are the great balancing act that corporate leaders must achieve.

Older generations of employees would never consider bringing their political bias into workplace conversations. What employers are now discovering is that those boundaries and barriers are being removed by a new generation of employees. Millennials and Generation Z-ers have no problem debating their favourite political subjects and personalities.

So, then, let us establish the ground rules for respecting team members who see the world from different political perspectives. Here are some suggestions to follow:

  • Establish office policies, and hold training sessions, that show respect to co-workers, but do not focus specifically on politics, which can have the effect of fuelling conflict.

  • Make what constitutes an 'opinion' and what rises to the level of harassing another worker clear. Establish the lines and parameters of unacceptable behaviour and conversation. The gold standard is not to avoid all discussions about politics, as that would just be inhumane, but there are certainly some aspects we should seek to avoid.

  • Set an example at the top. If the manager talks openly about supporting one candidate or another, employees can feel intimidated or worry they will be treated differently if they disagree. So managers should stay silent. Do not use social media, the local tabloids or anything else to discuss politics.

  • Consider keeping political programmes off the television screens in the office, including those in the break room. The less triggers employees have, the less inclined they are to engage.

  • Steer conversations in meetings away from politics, or restrict discussions to the more generic aspects of an issue.

  • Limit or ban visual displays in the office, such as campaign buttons, bumper stickers and posters. The PLP, FNM and DNA paraphernalia should have no place in the corporate setting. Make this clear to everyone.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.


geostorm 1 year, 9 months ago

Agreed, the work place should be free from religious and political conversations. It creates unnecessary division and also greatly impacts productivity.


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