With the Republican and Democratic National Conventions over, we are now in full swing with the general election season. It's no secret that the 2016 presidential election has been one for the books, with two major candidates who are breaking records and conventions across the board.
It's an exciting time, but it can also get heated--especially at the workplace, where there is a unique intersection of social watercooler talk and workplace formalities. With politics taking center stage the next few months, it's hard not to let it invade your work life.
Here are 4 tips for managers for navigating the election season at work:
1. Consider asking employees to limit political party paraphernalia.
While many will want to show their spirit, it's important to make the workplace a welcoming environment for all. Be mindful of the fact that coworkers and clients whose beliefs are not in the majority may feel uncomfortable and instantly defensive if they walk into an environment that seems to have "taken a side."
2. Approach this time as an opportunity to be open-minded and learn more about people.
Politics aren't black and white, and we should never make assumptions or blanket generalizations about a person's party affiliation, policy opinion, or candidate choice. Someone's views may be different from your own, but that doesn't mean they don't have good reasons. Practice fostering a sense of curiosity and goodwill--you'll learn more about your coworkers and set a good example for all.
3. Review your company policies--and your rights.
Navigating politics in the workplace can be tricky, because a well-intentioned rule might end up violating someone's constitutional rights. It is illegal to completely ban any political discussion at work, but managers do have the ability to step in if political discussions are disruptive to workplace productivity. Review and update any company policies you may have, and talk to a lawyer or HR manager if tough situations arise.
4. When in doubt, think like a politician.
For better or for worse, politicians are great at giving neutral or non-answers to questions they would not like to answer at that time. If you happen to be approached by a co-worker about politics and would prefer not to engage, think of a diplomatic answer that appeases their question and only reveals as much as you want to share.