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December 2016

How to Keep it Cool When Political Tensions Heat Up in the Workplace

Human resources consultants know that employee retention can be a major problem for any company of any size. In fact, 57% of organizations report having issues with turnover, while 35% of CEOs say that staffing is the most significant business issue they face.

One major problem? Research shows that 22% of new hires will leave their new position within 45 days of being hired.

So, what else causes such high turnover? Employees leave for a number of reasons, but one reason that is particularly relevant in today’s political climate is office culture and low company morale.

More than a quarter of human resources professionals are reporting an increase in workplace hostility as a result of this year’s highly volatile election season. Political tensions always heat up in election years, but the 2016 election has been particularly... fraught.

Shut Down Political Arguments At Work Before They Start

Work and politics rarely mix well, which is why 24% of workplaces have written policies on how to handle political activities and 72% of organizations discourage that kind of dialogue altogether. When it comes to forbidden topics in the workplace, politics ranks as high as sex and religion.

When political arguments heat up, employees can feel unsafe or disrespected, causing recruiting, retention, and productivity to plummet. Here are some ways to keep it cool in the office this election season.

  1. Set an example. Keep in mind that employees take cues from company leaders, so it is vital that you set a good example for others to follow. If you often bring up hot-button issues, don’t be surprised if your employees do the same. When you check your political opinion at the door, your team will be more likely to do the same.
  2. Be familiar with the law. Because freedom of speech is a constitutional right, it is illegal to ban political discourse. However, there are things you can do within the law to minimize the occurrence of these types of conversations, particularly if they are making other employees uncomfortable. This is a great time for your human resources department to brush up on relevant rules and regulations.
  3. Establish a healthy company culture. What is your company mission statement and vision? What are you trying to accomplish and who are you trying to serve? Finally, which values align with that vision? Make sure your internal corporate culture and your external corporate brand are consistent with how you and your workforce conduct themselves.
  4. Establish clear and unambiguous guidelines. Once you’ve reviewed your company’s vision and values, determine specific office policies that coincide with those values. Make sure your policies are clearly defined and consistently enforced.

It is much easier to prevent conflict than to resolve it, which is why establishing a company-wide policy is so important. Employee retention drops in unpleasant work environments, and we all know that this election is causing its fair share of unpleasantness.

To avoid the need to meet with a restructuring consultant after a major period of employee turnover, make sure you keep the political talks to a minimum.