The U.S. presidential election always brings strong opinions — choosing the next leader of the country is no trivial matter, after all. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, people may find themselves getting into heated debates with friends, family members, and even strangers over the upcoming vote.
Unfortunately, in many instances those debates make their way into the workplace. When coworkers discuss their differing political views, it can become a problem, especially if it begins to disrupt office productivity. For business leaders, it’s essential to find ways to successfully manage any interoffice political tension before it gets out of hand. Here are a few ways you can keep election season peaceful in your office and possibly even turn it into a positive.
Once conflict has happened, leaders are put in the position of resolving tensions. Lingering effects of political debates can remain long after the election is over, so it’s important to do whatever you can to keep political talk at bay. While you don’t want to seem as though you’re oppressing freedom of speech, you have the right to require that employees remain professional at all times while on your payroll. Combine this with other conflict prevention measures, such as preemptively addressing the fact that difference of opinion is what makes your team unique.
Set a good example
Business leaders often set the tone of the office, with employees looking to them as an example. In general, refrain from mentioning your personal views in the workplace, especially when it comes to topics like politics and religion, two topics many experts recommend avoiding. If a colleague, client, or employee attempts to steer the conversation in that direction, gracefully bring it back to work-related topics. Use that same approach if two employees begin a debate on politics in the workplace. Always bring it back to the current project and you’ll likely find workers feel obliged to move to a more professional topic.
Honor personal choices
The election can be a distraction, whether business owners welcome it or not. If your employees want to pursue their passions by taking an occasional afternoon off to attend a political event, allow that as long as their work won’t suffer. On Election Day, make it clear that all employees can take time off to vote. Check local laws to see how much you’re required to give, but you can also allow extra time if you feel it is warranted. If early voting is available in the area, it might be worthwhile to let some employees take extra time off to do that, since it will help avoid a large portion of your staff being out of the office on Election Day.
Consider turning Election Day into a fun reason to celebrate by hosting a themed luncheon for all of your employees. This could be especially important if tension has been high in the weeks leading up to the day, since it should be a welcome distraction. It will also give employees who vote that morning a reason to mark the completion of their civic duty. Make the gathering a celebration of the end of election season to avoid anyone trying to initiate political discussions. Make sure the party is during business hours so that employees can attend their own election night parties after they leave work.
Political tension can be unavoidable, especially in a presidential election season. Leaders who learn conflict resolution skills and create a workplace where professionalism is encouraged can skillfully manage any conflicts that arise. By setting a good example and embracing the politics rather than battling them, you can make it through election season without lingering negative effects.
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