Remember when that guy stole a plane at Sea-Tac airport a few months ago? It's kind of like someone did that with Congress.
The Kavanaugh confirmation sucked up all the oxygen last week. It used to be the case that we didn't discuss politics, sex or religion at work. Within the congressional hearing, all three where front and center, creating a lot of workplace fodder. People were distracted, tripping over what someone in the next cubicle might be thinking.
According to Business Insider, Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently circulated a memo warning employees not to get "too political at work" after mounting banter that the Trump Administration could force anti-trust investigations against Google, Facebook and others. It appears as though Silicon Valley poked the bear. Several tech companies have even been accused of discriminating against employment candidates based on political views.
Letting politics seep into the workplace is a slippery slope. So, what are a company's responsibilities in policing its employees?
The polarizing nature of politics should force us to rethink what we're willing to accept. Employers should be thoughtful of the words and symbols used. There isn't a more poignant example than Nike's use of Colin Kaepernick in its advertising as a lightning rod for diversity and equality.
Many respect Nike for taking a stand, but as a public company it took a big risk given the hit the NFL has taken in public perception. Marketers will be watching to see if Nike's approach helps them sell more shoes.
Here are some guidelines for managing politics at work:
Take a stand.
Even if a company believes in an ideal, it puts its client and vendor relationships at risk. The Chairman of the Democratic Party called for a boycott of In-N-Out Burger in an August 29th tweet because of the company's support for Republican candidates (which the Chairman later retracted).
On any given day, conservative groups could call for a boycott of Nike, or others who have supported left-leaning causes. Are we at a point where we're going to have "left companies" and "right companies"? Will the left companies only do business with other left companies?
If a company were going to support a cause, it should be in alignment with its mission. For instance, Open Listings is a fully-digital real estate company that supports affordable housing initiatives, which is in alignment with its mission to "make buying a home simple and affordable." There is a natural synergy between a company's business and philanthropy when there is alignment between giving and mission.
Know the rules.
According to the American Bar Association, the First Amendment protects employees of public companies, as well as government employees from their employer curbing their conversations. But in private companies, political discourse is not protected (discussion of terms of employment are protected by the National Labor Relations Board).
Focus on giving, not politics.
There are causes almost everyone can support regardless of political affiliation. I chaired a nonprofit that aids single mothers, many of whom are victims of domestic violence. Our donor base was broad, as no one wants to see women abused or children growing up in squalor.
But the most fulfilling thing to see was corporate support from large companies who engaged employees in activities beneficial to the nonprofit. There's no better way to create unity in a company than to bring people together to help others.
Websites such as Charity Navigator are solely dedicated to helping organizations find quality nonprofits that align with their missions.
Coach your leaders on how to manage political conflict.
While companies may provide some latitude, managers must keep an eye on the pulse of their business and its employees. When discussions get out of hand, they should be coached to step in and restore calm.
Employees are most likely to act out when they're stressed. Strategies that improve their work-life balance and environment will let steam out of the kettle.
The best way to curb conflict is to set a tone where employees are respected for their individuality. Conflict often begins online, but should be settled face to face. We don't need to agree, but can't we all get along?