posted on 09 March 2016
from Challenger Gray and Christmas
With presidential primaries in full swing and campaign rhetoric seemingly more divisive than ever, the potential for political dustups in the office is increasing, along with the subsequent damage to morale, productivity and workplace harmony.
While companies should not attempt to ban political discussion in the office, according to one employment and workplace authority, they can set guidelines to mitigate the risk of harmless debates turning into ongoing conflicts that threaten to disrupt operations.
Said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.:
According to a 2012 CareerBuilder Survey, 36 percent of workers discuss politics openly. About 23 percent of respondents indicated that a political discussion had become heated and roughly 10 percent said their opinion of a co-worker changed upon learning of his or her political views.
The increased division can be seen in a 2014 survey by Pew Research Center, which found that the share of Republicans who have very unfavorable views of the Democratic Party has more than doubled over the last 20 years from 17 percent to 43 percent. Likewise, the percentage of Democrats with very unfavorable opinions of the GOP has gone from 16 percent to 38 percent over the same period. Says Challenger:
Up until 2010, corporations were barred from urging employees to support specific politicians. That changed with the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which lifted the ban on corporate spending for campaigns and candidates, and removed restrictions on trying to influence employees' votes.
Challenger, Gray & Christmas issued the following suggestions for keeping political discussions from negatively impacting the workplace.
RULES FOR POLITICAL TALK IN WORKPLACE
Keep it civil: Do not let friendly banter deteriorate into a name-calling shouting match.
Know your colleague: Career-wise, it is probably safer to converse with those who share your views. If unsure about a colleague's views, then avoid political conversations or carefully probe for his or her views.
Do not campaign: Give-and-take conversations are acceptable, but campaigning can be off-putting. If someone expresses discomfort with political discussions, respect his or her wishes.
If you must talk politics, stick to politics: While politics are increasingly entwined with religion, consider that aspect of the debate off limits.
Do not evaluate based on politics: You may not agree with a coworker's political views, but, if you are a supervisor, do not let that influence your assessment of that person's work and/or value to the company.
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