Are you a business owner who believes in freedom of speech and an easy-going workplace? If so, that’s great and most likely means you have developed a culture of trust, self-expression, and loyalty. All of which lead to a happy environment and a higher level of productivity.
But, what do you do when trying to keep politics out of the workplace? It’s not that you want to squash opinions or open discussion, but we all know that it can often lead to heated arguments and hurt feelings. This behavior is not something you strive for in your office because it can be disruptive and detrimental to your company and team.
So how do you prevent your employees from discussing politics during working hours?
It’s not that difficult, especially when it comes from leadership, who must also help to set the example. It can be a relief for many who were afraid to speak up that they don’t feel comfortable being pulled into unwanted debates.
It’s critical to address this quickly as it’s easy to create an environment of “bullying.” Set your anti-political standards quickly, if you haven’t already done so, and to be fair, ensure everyone is aware of the policy.
Where to begin?
Make it part of policy for EVERYONE in your company.
Let them know they are free to talk about all the politics they want during their free time, as long as it doesn’t reflect on the company. We’ve all been to that rowdy Thanksgiving dinner where political discussions are a given. But, as long as there is respect for others who believe differently than us, it can be a healthy conversation. But, again, this is not a discussion for the office, no matter how civil.
What Do We Say to Those Who Persist?
What if someone attempts to engage you in political conversation? First, you should never feel uncomfortable in your workspace or anywhere; the first and easiest thing to do is express yourself as being neutral. If approached, the following are some response examples.
RESPONSE OPTION ONE:
“I find the best thing for me is not to participate in political conversations; it’s saved me a lot of friendships.” Even if it has never happened like that, this “white lie” can stop a potential debate in its tracks. Try to think of something interesting to come back with, such as “Better than politics, let’s talk about my dog who barks when the doorbell rings on TV.” When you can turn the table quickly, it’s much less uncomfortable.
RESPONSE OPTION TWO:
“I hate to interrupt, but we need to discuss our time-sensitive project.” This tactic will allow you to change direction and hopefully get back on track with what’s important. The words “time-sensitive” add a sense of urgency and distract from the political path.
RESPONSE OPTION THREE:
There may be times a conversation can get heated. A direct approach that will most likely squash future attempts at the conversation may be: “It appears this topic is very important to you, and I respect that. But, I am feeling uncomfortable, and I would love it if we could talk about a different subject.
Once you’ve relayed your office politics policy to all employees, perhaps come up with a “safe” phrase like:
“Time for a topic change” when someone begins a political conversation.
You can even make it fun by ringing a bell or something that will be a quick reminder, as we all know how easy it is to fall back into old habits. If you use the latter, and until everyone is accustomed to the new and considerate norm, everyone may be surprised at how often the bell rings.
Ring the bell for a lighthearted effort to change the conversation direction.
Business is business, and politics have their place outside the office. Without political agendas affecting daily activities, your employees will thank you, and your business will continue to move forward.