With the election season in full swing, people are talking about the most recent debate or what the candidates have been saying. According to CareerBuilder’s last survey on politics at work, 36 percent of workers admit to discussing politics at work, while 46 percent stated that they plan to discuss this year’s presidential election with their co-workers at some point.
Workplace arguments over politics are hurting productivity, which in turn has a more significant effect on the company. According to a survey conducted by SHRM, more than 1 in 4 employees feel like they have been negatively affected by workplace conversations about the Clinton-Trump race.
Since this election year has had such a negative tone, it has led to voters having sharper emotional states concerning their position on who to vote for and political discussions in general.
Employers cannot prohibit political speech; however, they can implement strategies to reduce and manage it. Employers have a very fine line to walk in order to avoid infringing on employees’ rights to freedom of speech.
It is important for employers to manage the political discussions in the workplace because these discussions not only effect employee morale and productivity, but they can also pose as a potential liability for employers.
Employees generally talk about a candidate’s race, sex or religion, and this can open the door for other employees to file harassment claims in regards to race, religion, age or gender discrimination.
Employers are allowed to impose speech limits in order to ensure efficient operations and limit lost productivity. In order to protect yourself from the liability, employers should publicize and distribute anti-discrimination and anti-harassment politics that include detailed complaint and non-retaliation procedures.
These policies are crucial because persistent political discussion can be viewed by some employees as unlawful harassment. Employers should follow normal procedure if they receive claims of harassment even if the context is political.
Recommended steps for handling politics in the workplace:
- Implement a non-solicitation policy that prohibits all forms of solicitation during working time.
- Implement an electronic communications policy the explicitly mentions that the employer’s computer system is for business use only.
- Remind managers and supervisors to avoid political conversations or discussions with their subordinates.
- Advise employees that all workplace speech should be respectful and tolerant of others’ views even in regards to politics.
- Do not press employees to vote for a particular candidates and never use threats of adverse employment action to influence an employee’s vote.
- Communicate with supervisors regularly during campaign and election season to reiterate the importance of maintaining a politically neutral workplace.
About Kellie Boysen – Owner, Alternative HR:
Kellie Boysen is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR) with more than a decade of HR experience. She owns Alternative HR, a local human resource consulting and outsourcing organization that is dedicated to providing small business owners with an affordable alternative to hiring a full-time HR professional.