Updated: Nov 11, 2020
2020 has been a year fraught with political tensions, divisive rhetoric, and a desperate need for communication across partisan lines. As the election looms in front of us, drawn-out and further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, open communication can feel out of reach as tensions and anxieties rise across the nation.
Yet, the majority of businesses have a range of political perspectives on their teams. Navigating partisan opinions in the workplace has never been more challenging as our political allegiance becomes increasingly tied to our moral convictions and core values. This moves us beyond dress codes or policies that minimize use of slogans or images to thinking about how we cultivate true collaboration, respect and communication in our teams.
Integrative Inquiry was founded to help address the fundamentals of organization culture and much of our work focuses on developing our facilitation and communication skills in times of conflict.
Regardless of the outcome of the election this year, these divisions will not disappear. It’s imperative that we create policies to foster psychological safety and that we equip our managers and leadership to navigate these challenges more smoothly.
5 Strategies to Help Navigate Political Divides in the Workplace:
Though not nationally recognized, you may consider allowing your team specific days off during political events. Election Day and Inauguration Day both generate a great deal of emotion and anxiety. If you don’t have essential functions for your team, you might want to prioritize mental health with a break during these times.
Hold a discussion around what constitutes freedom of speech and opinion, and what might result in the harassment or ostracization of team members. Help your team come together to create policies about how and when political viewpoints are brought up in the workplace.
Educate your team about conflict and how our moral convictions can override our ability to compromise and collaborate. Sometimes, when we understand why we are so emotionally charged, it can help us approach our interactions with others differently.
Managers should be particularly careful to avoid revealing political opinions because of the power dynamics at play within an organization and how it may be perceived by other team members.
Invite someone to work with your team around psychological safety and what it means to create work environments where people can bring up and engage tough topics with respect and transparency.
A Final Thought
This process isn't clear cut and doesn't happen overnight. If your team is deeply divided and this has already shown up in the workplace, it may help to be transparent and express your concern over the situation as well as what you hope will come out of this work.