From presidential elections to social injustices and movements, the workplace has constantly been exposed to the risk of political opinions and discussions. While not all workplace politics are negative, it is critical that employers neutralize them to safeguard both employee well-being and safety, and mitigating potentially catastrophic risks (i.e., workplace violence).
Understanding Different Types of Workplace Politics
The key to addressing workplace politics begins with understanding what type(s) of workplace politics are involved. Here are a few potential workplace politics:
- Political discussions: Employees who engage in discussions involving politics. Almost half (47%) of individuals reported more likely to discuss politics in the workplace during election season than in the past.
- Social issues: When social issues occur, whether inside or outside the office, they oftentimes impact employees and brought into workplace conversations. For example, a 2018 survey found that 70% of employees want their employers to address social issues, with 52% expect their employer to address social issues including those not directly impacting the organization.
- Workplace culture: General disapproval or challenges to workplace culture typically formulate as gossiping and complaining. Approximately half (47%) of applicants list company culture as a top employment decision factor.
Tips for Addressing Workplace Politics
Stay neutral. As an employer, it may be more difficult to stay neutral as employees frequently expect employers to engage workplace politics. The best way to remain neutral is to avoid taking sides. Especially as an employer, you’re likely going to be stuck in the middle of a disagreement. In scenarios like this, focus on the core objective. If it is a business-related argument, redirect them to a communication platform to (1) recordkeeping purposes (i.e., to avoid “I said/They said” claims), (2) remove them from verbal altercations (i.e., creating a distraction and negative experience for others), and (3) to ensure both sides are heard and where more constructive engagements may occur.
Additionally, try to avoid making it personal. Sometimes heated discussions can lead to impulsive outbursts or unfiltered opinions. To avoid this outcome, you should consider:
- Walking away
- Taking a moment to level yourself before responding
- Expressing empathy
The last thing an employer would like to do is damage employee morale, productivity, or retention. Helping employees respond and cope with these types of situations can help neutralize future situations.
Empathize first. Most times, people who feel unjustified stems from being misunderstood. Instead of trying to be understood, try to understand from the opposing individual’s perspective. This approach oftentimes disarms them by making them feel understood and more open to reciprocate the understanding. As a result, open communication can occur, and the situation may be resolved.
Redirect negative responses to effectuating change. Gossiping and complaining are the most common responses to disapproval of workplace policies or workplace factors that challenge personal interests. To deter victimization and expression of negative responses, redirect it to ways for which employees may influence the situation. For example, if the workplace culture is perceived to be toxic, encourage employees to effectuate change. This could be in the form of creating a Diversity and Inclusion Committee to help address workplace conflicts, resolve deficiencies and inefficiencies of workplace culture, and engage leadership to effectuate such changes. This can also showcase employees’ abilities to navigate within constraints.
While changes or decisions may not be made immediately or directly impact the outcome, advocating on behalf of employees will show empathy towards their situation.
Workplace politics can be a complex topic for employers to navigate. Give yourself some peace of mind by partnering with Human Capital. As your trusted PEO provider, our human resource experts can provide you quick tips, resources to support your employees, and industry best practices. Contact us today to learn more about our full suite of HR services.