- July 2, 2021
- By Joshua Reid
- Advice , Politics
- 2020 , 2020 election , politic , political , political debate , politics , president , presidential election
How does a company engage with politics during tense times?
Although the 2020 presidential election is over, news outlets and social media are still full of discourse about President Biden and his agenda. Topics include everything from immigration and unemployment to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and more. And yet, despite all of this, companies still have to function and serve their clients while dealing with the impact of this intense political discourse on their business..
How does a company engage with politics during a tense period in US history?
In an article by Corporate Wellness Magazine titled “How to Handle Political Discussions in the Office,” Kerry Wekelo Elam writes that there are good reasons why political discussions usually don’t take place in the workplace including “Legal concerns [like Federal Labor Laws], Distraction from the job, Division of teams, [and maybe even] uncomfortable opposing views” (Elam). Elam also notes, however, that “keeping political conversations away from the office is easier said than done; they will inevitably show up” (Elam).
Elam is right about political discourse in the workplace. It’s inevitable that such discussions will take place, even if a company tries to keep them from occurring. One way that companies can engage with the inevitable political discussions without it affecting their productivity is by actually allowing such conversations to take place, but only within set boundaries.
Additionally, by allowing these political conversations to take place in a space that allows for differing views on political issues, these conversations could nurture communication and understanding between employees. This could then help a company communicate with their clients and help their business to thrive despite the current state of the country.
“To limit the impact of the current political landscape’s negativity, try to focus on the areas that matter most to you, and choose carefully when and where you step into the political sea. Also, remember the importance of using your safe circle to discuss your political views,” Kerry Wekelo Elam stated.
Engaging in political discourse anywhere is bound to draw some heated debates, but in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, it’s even more so. With companies forced online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they not only have to contend with virtually communicating with their clients but also with the onslaught of political news from both news outlets and social media like Twitter. Elam notes that there are several ways in which employees can engage with politics without it hindering their work.
This includes things like pivoting the conversation to a work-related topic, acknowledging when tensions are beginning to get out of control, limiting conversation engagement [i.e. removing yourself from a conversation beginning to get political], sticking to neutral observations and impartial comments, smiling and nodding with the intention of actually listening and saying nothing, honoring boundaries you placed upon yourself about politics, and showing respect to those who have differing viewpoints.
Companies who decide to engage in politics during such tense times also have to be careful about how they present it because it can do serious damage to their employees.
In a January article for Smarter Than Gartner titled “5 Ways to Support Employees and Managers Amid Political and Social Unrest,” Caroline Walsh writes that the surveys Gartner conducted showed that the “U.S. presidential campaigning was damaging employee morale, collaboration and productivity many months before election day. The day after the vote, 64% of U.S. employees said the results made them feel anxious” (Walsh).
This anxiety after the presidential election is a common feeling. The article does posit several ways that companies can engage in political discourse yet at the same time support employees and managers including:
- Help employees manage negative emotions.
- Establish appropriate expression policies.
- Create safe spaces for productive conversations.
- Communicate your action plan to employees.
- Don’t forget to support fatigued HR teams.
With politics now seeping into various aspects of life, from jobs to the COVID-19 vaccines to even businesses themselves, companies have to be cognizant of all this in order to adapt a system of work that was originally face-to-face.
As I mentioned throughout the article, there are ways for companies to engage with politics but also ways for companies to shut down such conversations when they begin to either get heated or distract from the work the company is supposed to be doing.
Elam, Wekelo Kerry. “How to Handle Political Discussions in the Office.” Corporate Wellness Magazine, https://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/article/political-conversations-workplace. Accessed 17 March 2021.
Walsh, Caroline. “5 Ways to Support Employees and Man0agers Amid Political and Social Unrest.” Smarter With Gartner, https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/5-ways-to-support-employees-and-managers-amid-political-and-social-unrest/. Accessed 18 March 2021.