Oct 022008

Discussions regarding the Presidential Campaigns seem impossible to avoid. The media is bombarding us with information as this election year there are many “firsts” in our history. Freedom of speech is our right – but is it right to discuss politics in the workplace?

Politics, personal finances and religion are topics that are best avoided in the workplace. You cannot assume that because a person may share your views on sports, entertainment, books, etc., that they also share your political views. If you are unsure of your colleague’s views, it is best to avoid political discussion

Most companies do not have a formal policy for political discussions in the workplace. However, business owners, executives, managers and supervisors need to be particularly careful about debates and communicating their political views. Members of the management team should not put themselves in a position that could leave them vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits.

If a supervisor observes a discussion getting out of hand, he/she must manage the conflict before it escalates.

Do not campaign at work. If you are in management, it puts the employees in an awkward position, fearing retaliation if they don’t share your beliefs.

Do not base any employment decisions on a subordinate’s political beliefs.

Make sure employees understand that you expect everyone to honor diverse opinions, and beliefs. Many include the phrase “political affiliations” in their harassment policies.

Employees who repeatedly attack or scorn the political, religious or other beliefs of coworkers should be subject to progressive discipline.

Freedom of expression is a good thing. However, the discussion of politics, religion and differing beliefs must not be allowed to develop into workplace conflict.

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  7 Responses to “Political Discussions in the Workplace – Danger Zone”

  1. Nice post Cathy and great reminder that we need to leave politics at home during this heated political season.

    I choose to share you post with my readers in my weekly Rainmaker ‘Fab Five’ blog picks for the past week which can be found here: http://www.maximizepossibility.com/employee_retention/2008/10/the-rainmaker-f.html

    Be well Cathy!

    -Chris Young

  2. Great advice Cathy!

    Another good idea is to channel your passion. Just because you need to be professional doesn’t mean you can’t be patriotic. You can get excited about the election without being specific about a candidate or an issue. At the office, convert your excitement for your candidate into passion for the right to vote. Encourage coworkers to vote, and approach your boss with an idea or two about how to remind your department about Election Day, registering to vote, or key debate dates.

    I would also like to share with you a link to Spherion Corporation’s Career Blog’s “Life in the Cubicle” cartoon which features politics in the office: http://www.spherion.com/careerblog/

  3. With the election less than a month away, I think it is impssible to avoid political discussions in the workplace. People have strong opinions regarding topics that directly impact the workplace including the struggling economy and the health care. It is inevitable that these topics will come up in discussions between coworkers.

    Due to the nature of their work and how casual the business is, politics may be a frequent topic of discussion around many water coolers. Instead of believing employees will leave politics at home, encourage “everyone to honor diverse opinions, and beliefs,” like Cathy said. Discipline those employees who take discussion to the point of conflict and begin disrespecting others.

  4. [...] not putting the company at risk. If you overhear employees entering into dangerous territory (like political discussions), knowing a cordial way to suggest a change of subject can be quite [...]

  5. Interesting thought. I am pretty active in politics but try to not share them with anyone not asking me about my involvement. Thanks for the information.
    .-= Seth W@Blog Discussion´s last blog ..From Barista to Blogger =-.

  6. I agree political and religious discussions can be a source of conflict in the workplace and they may even be career limiting if you try and ram your beliefs down other peoples throats.
    Most businesses are pretty conservative so being radical in the workplace can be risky. By all means be true to your beliefs but pick a career that is not in conflcit with that so you don’t feel the need to bring these issues into work.
    The other thing I agree with is a lot depends on what supervisers and leaders do when faced with these issues. Do they have a quiet word with evangelising employees or do they ignore it or worse talk about it and ignore it?
    .-= graham@ career builders´s last blog ..Career Description The System Administrator Job Description Handbook and Career Guide: The Complete Knowledge Guide you need to Start or Advance your Career =-.

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