What Can Employers Do to Mediate Political Workplace Conflict?

Workplace conflict is inevitable. That’s a good thing: You don’t want a bevy of drones who nod in agreement with everything the boss says. But sometimes workplace communication can sour when conflict arises over politics instead of the best marketing scheme or who should have won last night’s reality show finale.

Here’s what to do when the political arena becomes a little too much like a real-life prize fight — and your employees are right in the middle of it.

How Does Political Speech Become a Distraction?

Sometimes our political beliefs seem so reasonable and clear that it just boggles our minds that anyone could possibly disagree with us. The reality is, though, that about half the country has a different opinion than you do on any given political issue. Some people find political debates invigorating, but others tend to take them personally. And one 2014 study found that people attribute their own political beliefs to love but their opponents’ views to hate.

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6 thoughts on “What Can Employers Do to Mediate Political Workplace Conflict?

  1. Companies could promote overseas living, which will open minds to possibilities. For example, Germany: land of free college tuition, unlimited-speed rural freeways, universal health insurance, “blue laws” prohibiting most Sunday shopping… crosscutting American partisanship, yet effective.

    Maybe European living should be mandatory for the most partisan employees.

    1. I’m trying to imagine the other side of that coin, where instead of opening conservatives’ minds to new ideas in liberal countries, one exports liberals to highly conservative areas to expose them to a different culture. You could send Silicon Valleyites – or to make it international, say, French employees – to conservative parts of Appalachia. (I’m liberal too, but fair’s fair.) It does make an interesting picture in both directions!

      1. Europeans aren’t generally “liberal” in the American sense. True, there are government-run programs that long pre-date Roosevelt’s Social Security. Yet, the Swiss voted in referendum to ban minarets on mosques in 2009; Bavaria mandated crucifixes in public buildings in 2018; the Dutch wear “blackface” to depict St Nick’s companion Zwarte Piet.

        America’s two political parties now closely hew to social, educational, and geographic identities. The situation is volatile, and is the best argument I’ve seen for facilitating multi-party elections more like Switzerland: eleven parties are in the Swiss legislature.

  2. I’m so glad to be a Federal employee, where partisan political discussions are verboten at work. I’m highly political, but cannot imagine anything more counterproductive than employees airing their partisan differences in the workplace. We dread it when politics comes up at Thanksgiving dinner, where our only “job” is to share a feast with family and friends. Political discussions should be doubly-dreaded at work, where there are actual, non-partisan, tasks to be completed, that require at least a modicum of cooperation and teamwork.

  3. Free speech and whatever, a workplace should be for doing work. I don’t know of any workplace where discussion of outside interests is a mandatory activity unless you are working for a specific candidate. To put this across to all in a “political correct” statement, any discussion that results in a non-teamwork atmosphere in the workplace is verboten period.
    I am saying this because as a poll worker, I have to limit the topics of conversation when dealing with the voters and my coworkers to do my job properly. Has the workplace today become a gossip chat place instead of a workplace? There’s a big difference.

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