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Updated: September 13, 2021 101

101: Politics at work

Political topics these days can be a battlefield in conversations, on social media, and at work. How should managers cope with the environment created with polarized main political parties and controversial current events while keeping teams effectively collaborative, engaged, and productive?

Bans on talking politics don’t work. Managers should encourage open, honest discussion at all levels: individual, group, and organizational, say psychology experts Dawn Chow and Jeffrey Lees. “Studies have shown that trying to explain something complex can be a humbling and eye-opening experience. When people actually start talking about why they favor certain policies, it can help them realize that they don’t have monopoly on the truth, making them more open to, and understanding of, different perspectives,” they say, at Leadership should model how to express different views without alienating coworkers who may disagree.

Be clear and don’t conflict with other policies, advises It’s OK to ban employees from sending emails of a political nature on company computers to co-workers and clients or ask them not to wear campaign clothing to work. But if those rules overlap with other policies on diversity and inclusion, harassment and bullying, workplace conflict resolution, or other standards, things get sticky.

Encourage employees to value productivity over political differences. Just as we bring different levels of expertise, nationalities, races, sexual genders, and preferences to work, so do we bring different political opinions, says Sarah Johnson at “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and all opinions are respected,” she writes. “Our opinions exist outside of our ability to work effectively and contribute to team goals.”

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