Politics in the workplace

Politics in the Workplace: Why it’s Important to Keep your Political Preferences Private

As the next presidential election nears, politics will become a regular topic of conversation around the water cooler. And while good-natured discussions should be encouraged at the office, it is important for employers to recognize the impact their beliefs can have on employees.

An administrative assistant at a Colorado insurance agency almost resigned after her boss unknowingly put her in an uncomfortable situation. In an effort to circumvent donor restrictions, he made campaign contributions to one of his relatives on behalf of each of his employees.

The woman, who asked that her name not be published, says she felt extremely uncomfortable because she does not agree with the political platform of the relative, but did not want to makes waves in what she describes as a “small, close-knit” work team. She grudgingly went along with the donation but is still angry that she appeared to be donating to a candidate she does not truly support.

Aside from causing tension in the workplace, promoting a particular political party among employees can lead to a lawsuit if someone feels they have been discriminated against because of their beliefs. Employers must strive to create an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance, and recognize that there is a fine line between self-expression and harassment.

If you are in a managerial role or higher, the following tips will help you keep your workplace free of political strife:

  1. Keep your personal views private. Your safest bet is to avoid discussing your political leanings with your staff. Employers, managers and supervisors should never push a political agenda in the workplace or solicit donations.
  2. Make sure voting policies are equally administered and enforced. Some states have laws pertaining to employee voting rights. Let your workers know that they have equal and adequate time off to head to the polls if they so desire.
  3. Adopt a policy about politics in your office. Draft a simple memo reminding your staff that political discussions can create controversy and foster ill-will in the workplace. They should aim to keep the atmosphere cordial and avoid political dialogue.
  4. Don’t make politics a laughing matter. Not everyone shares the same sense of humor, and political jokes can be considered discriminatory.

Even in the most casual work environments, it’s best to keep politics out of the office. Employers can be held responsible for the actions of their staff, so it is important to diffuse any heated political discussions in the workplace or at work-related functions. Failure to do so can result in decreased morale and engagement among employees, and the possibility of a harassment or discrimination lawsuit.