In a nutshell: In these politically charged days, people are yelling at others in real life and on social media. Here’s how to keep your employees from yelling at each other in your workplace.
If you think the country has become more polarized, you’re right. A recent Pew Research Center study finds the average gap in political values between Democrats and Republicans is 36 percentage points — up 21 points from 20 years ago. The political disparity is wider than the one reported by race or gender. Another Pew report confirms political arguments are annoying, frustrating and aggravating for many people: One third of survey respondents describe being “worn out” by political posts on social media.
All of this political discourse is taking a toll on your company. In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association during the heated 2016 campaign seasons, 25 percent of employees said they have been “negatively affected by political talk at work” and have experienced a drop in productivity and feeling of isolation.
You certainly can’t control what your employees think about politics, and there’s no way to police their conversations. But you’re not entirely helpless. Here are three ideas to help discourage political discourse at work:
Change your Behaviors
Make sure you and the executive team don’t engage in political talk around the workplace, unless it’s a matter that directly affects your business operations (e.g., tariffs). If your employees hear you taking strong stances about controversial issues, they’ll think it’s OK to do the same.
Change the Channel
If you’ve got TVs in the workplace, don’t set them to a cable news channel. CNBC and Bloomberg News might be good options — they don’t avoid politics, but they prioritize financial news. If you’ve got sports fans in the office, ESPN is also a consideration.
Change the Subject
If an employee starts talking to you about political issues that don’t affect their work, change the subject. There’s nothing wrong with just saying “Let’s talk about something else.” You can also leave the conversation, saying that you’ve got work to do.
If you see politically charged conversation on a company-owned communication tool like Slack, don’t be afraid to ask people to use the tool only for work purposes.