How Should I Handle Political Chatter in the Office?

by Evil HR Lady on December 20, 2018

There are some employees who are uncomfortable with the political chatter in the office. It seems to pop up everywhere—in Slack conversations, jokes at meetings and even people asking direct questions about how the company will react to whatever political event is occurring. How should HR handle this?

To read my answer, click here: How Should I Handle Political Chatter in the Office?

Leave your own in the comments!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

grannybunny December 20, 2018 at 2:07 pm

I don’t think management should get involved in employee conversations unless there is a problem. Management should encourage employees to speak up if a co-worker’s political comments are unwelcome. Political extremists tend to politicize every issue, regardless of how off-topic and irrelevant they become. No matter what your political leanings, it quickly gets tiresome to be subjected to someone constantly blaming/praising either Obama or Trump, for example — take your pick — for everything, most of which they had nothing to do with. If someone’s work is suffering, that’s a totally separate issue, that should be dealt with as a performance problem, having nothing to do with the contents of their conversations. If an employee is disruptive, that’s a conduct problem, and their means of disrupting — whether political arguments or whatever — is irrelevant. I do find puzzling the statement: “unless you work for the government, your employees don’t have free speech rights at the office.” As a general First Amendment, Freedom of Speech, proposition, that is correct. However, when it comes to political discussions, Federal employees are limited by the Hatch Act, and cannot freely discuss politics at work.

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Goober December 20, 2018 at 6:22 pm

“Management should encourage employees to speak up if a co-worker’s political comments are unwelcome.”

I’d expand that to include any other subject, especially religion, children, sports, superhero movies, or, frankly, anything else. Unwelcome comments are always a problem (though not always the *same* problem), regardless of the subject.

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jdgalt December 20, 2018 at 8:23 pm

It would help enormously if the same laws that apply to harassment directed at protected classes of workers applied to harassment of anyone, for any reason. The system is broken so long as some animals are more equal than others.

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James Horn December 21, 2018 at 1:00 am

Political chatter is no different than religious chatter or proselytizing as it is guaranteed to offend someone. It should strongly discouraged if not banned.

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Semi-Evil Tech Manager December 23, 2018 at 4:14 pm

“Free speech” as protected by the 1st Amendment is there to protect individuals from persecution and prosecution by government. It doesn’t apply to private interactions. Basically, the government can’t throw you in jail for speaking out about your beliefs.

The other side is that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. All actions have potential consequences. So if your co-workers believe one thing but you believe the opposite (and make it well known), don’t be surprised if you find yourself “on the outs” in one way or another.

Freedom of expression does not protect you from others reacting in an undesired way. Those others have their rights to express themselves too.

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