With just a few weeks to go in one of the most contentious election seasons in history, political talk may be at an all-time high in your department. Tempers, too.
After all, the economy’s still in the dumper, health reform is an on-going issue and the Iraq occupation isn’t quite over yet. That means staffers likely have no shortage of opinions on what should be done and who’s the best person to get it done.
It’s a mine field for employers. Productivity drops, emotions run high and companies could even end up in legal hot water if political talk goes too far.
So how can you keep the election out of the workday these next few weeks? Four must-make moves:
- Cut conversations off fast. Put all supervisors on alert: If they hear talk of the Tea Party or who is or isn’t a witch, they’ll want to jump in fast to encourage another line of conversation. Folks gripe that’s a violation of their First Amendment right to free speech? Offer this reality check: That provision of the first amendment doesn’t apply to private workplaces.
- Kibosh the political paraphernalia. Of course, these conversations are a lot less likely to start if someone isn’t wearing a gigantic button endorsing a given candidate around the office. You might consider banning all buttons, bumper stickers, etc., to keep from sparking debates.
- Be open to any and all employee complaints. Tolerance levels for political talk are all over the board. What one staffer may find “offensive” might not bother someone else at all. But because political conversations can quickly morph into hostile work environment claims, you’ll want all supervisors to listen seriously to any complaint a staffer brings. After all, even if you do your best to make it an election-free zone, you probably won’t be able to squash all election talk (and who knows how much goes on outside your earshot?).
- Watch the days after even more closely. Just when you thought it was all over! The days immediately after Election Day actually tend to be some of the most emotionally charged. You may have some gloating winners or sore losers in the ranks. So keep your radar especially tuned for the days after the returns come in to keep any lingering issues from sapping productivity … or worse.