Real News: Addressing Political Conflict at the Office

It’s no secret that we are living in one of the most turbulent times in American History. From official government meetings to casual coffee shop exchanges, disagreements over politics are ever-present. And they can get heated very quickly. It’s likely that the topic will come up among your team members’ conversations with each other at one point or another, and it’s ok as long as it doesn’t turn hateful. However, that boundary can be hard to respect with such a passionate topic as politics. We’ve created a 4-D policy to maintain a professional work environment in today’s tense climate.

Disregard. Unless a political decision will affect how your workplace operates, don’t bring it up to your colleagues. Avoid initiating a dialogue than could become sour. We’re not recommending that you tip-toe around the “elephant in the room;” instead, focus on sparking meaningful conversations focused on the organization’s mission.

Diffuse. Unfortunately, ignoring a heated argument probably won’t make it go away. It is your responsibility to intervene, not like a school principal, but as a leader who aims to facilitate positive coworker relationships. Diffuse the situation by encouraging them to take it down a notch and perhaps break from the conversation. Alternatively, you could try distracting them by steering the conversation with a piece of good news (“Did you see the Broncos won last night? Awesome, right?”).

Discuss. If tensions among the team are rising, call a meeting and bring in the HR team if you have one. The meeting should not be about exchanging political views, but rather reiterating your company culture goals. Don’t scold your team like children; they are top professionals who should be able to mind their own behavior. Do make the meeting as casual possible and encourage everyone to speak up.

Draft. At the meeting, draft some guidelines for appropriate workplace behavior. You are not to act as the speech police by prohibiting any talk of politics at work. Rather, the agreement should be a collaborative effort that outlines everyone’s intentions for positive workplace interactions – the word “political” does not even have to come up. Also in the agreement, should be resources where employees can turn if a conversation has left them particularly uncomfortable.

Is your office a hotspot? Even if you are not personally aware of it, political tensions could be creating a tricky environment for your team. This is one area where ignorance is definitely risky. With the ThinkTank platform, leaders can gain inside access to their team’s issues and needs while bypassing lengthy meetings and awkward check-ins.

Try ThinkTank today and become a better leader leading a better team.

Photo Cred: Dane Rude