6 Minute Read

Political Talk at Work

Navigating politics in the workplace can be a particularly sensitive issue, especially for leaders with strong political convictions. Like, ummmmm, ME.

In today’s political climate, navigating the tightrope of workplace politics ain’t easy. Trust me, as someone who could probably give the Leaning Tower of Pisa (does it lean left, I wonder?) a run for its money, I’ve thought long and hard about how to express my political beliefs without stepping on toes or, worse, creating a chasm in my team.

That’s why a recent ResumeHelp survey piqued my interest

DYK that half of us are biting our tongues at work, with 51% keeping politics off the discussion table?

And honestly, who can blame us? These conversations can go south fast. In fact, 45% regret ever opening that Pandora’s box of political chat at work. Maybe, just maybe, airing your views on the latest political drama might not be the best icebreaker.

But here’s the thing: politics doesn’t just make for awkward water cooler moments; it’s a real game-changer in the job market. The political stance of a company, as well as the known political affiliations of its leaders, can significantly influence both hiring and retention.

A whopping 23% of folks have swiped left on job opportunities because the company’s political vibes didn’t match their own. AND, 25% of employees have either packed their bags or considered leaving their job due to their boss’s political beliefs, highlighting the direct impact of leadership’s political stance on retention.

Ladies, it seems, are feeling the pinch more, with 57% reporting that political chit-chat at work is cramping their style, compared to 44% of gents. It’s a reminder that, in the workplace, not all experiences are created equal.

And age? That’s a whole other can of worms. The younger crowd under 45 is all in for dishing on politics at work, while the over-45s seem to prefer keeping things more, shall we say, buttoned up. Here’s me,  just kickin’ it on the cusp as usual.

The upcoming U.S. presidential election only adds to the potential discomfort, with 24% of workers anticipating a more uncomfortable workplace as a result. This sentiment is reflective of a broader trend where political affiliations and beliefs are increasingly becoming sources of division, rather than points of respectful debate.

Diving deeper, Brad Smith from meQuilibrium and the folks over at Human Resource Executive magazine lay it out straight: the secret sauce to handling this hot potato lies in building a culture of empathy, emotional intelligence, and psychological safety. It’s about creating a space where everyone feels comfortable sharing their views without fear of a virtual tomato being thrown their way.

So, what’s a politically passionate CEO to do? Here’s my take, served straight up, no chaser:

Embrace Empathy: Empathy doesn’t mean agreement; it means acknowledgment. However, some folks have started to say the quiet part out loud, and no boss worth their salt should let ANYONE in the workplace dehumanize anyone else.

Foster Psychological Safety: Create an environment where everyone feels safe to express themselves, knowing their thoughts won’t be used as ammunition later. Freedom of expression is a beautiful thing, but ensure your workplace is safe for everyone, not just those USED to being heard.

Set Boundaries for Political Chit-Chat: We’re not saying ban political talk – that’s like trying to stop the tide with a broom. But maybe, just maybe, we can agree on when and where it’s appropriate. Working in the “world of work,” politics can come up more often than not, as legislation impacts our work and the work of our clients and our clients’ clients.

Encourage Curiosity and Open-Ended Questions: This isn’t about winning debates; it’s about understanding diverse perspectives. Think of it as adding more colors to your palette, not painting everyone with the same brush. This approach can backfire if you have an employee who’s being asked over and over again to explain the experiences of his or her entire race/sex/gender/color/ability. Keep an eye out for this.

Lead by Example: As leaders, we’ve got to walk the talk. Show respect, listen actively, and remember, sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is simply listen. But I long ago refused to hide the passion I feel for politics. I consider it leading by example to take an active interest in what’s happening in federal, state, and local government, and I hope my employees see that and follow suit.

At the end of the day, we’re all in this together, but we do not all experience it the same. The workplace is a vibrant mix of ideas, beliefs, and backgrounds. By infusing empathy, respect, and understanding into our work culture, we transform potential divides into powerful strengths.  #WorkplaceDiversity #Inclusion