Office policy: Keep politics in its place

| Print |  Email
Monday, September 01, 2008
OfficePolitics

As the nation enters the boxing ring of presidential campaigning this fall, it’s not unusual for the jabs of political convictions to enter the workplace, too.

Casual political discussions among coworkers can become heated and, in the worst cases, can lead to full-blown turmoil in the workplace. Imagine the conflicting loyalties that can develop if bosses explicitly support a candidate or a political issue that others don’t.

Talking politics “is inappropriate unless you are at campaign headquarters,” says Mindy Lockard, an etiquette consultant based in Eugene. In the proper world of social graces, politics, sex and religion are topics that generally should not be brought up in a business environment, she says.

But that world may be long gone. According to a 2007 survey by Vault, an online career information company, 66% of respondents said their co-workers talk politics, while 46% said they witnessed an argument as a result.

Of course, nobody wants to take away your right to wear a poor-fitting Obama or McCain T-shirt this November. But for supervisors and human resource managers, it may mean carefully pulling the plug on a debate without being perceived as stifling opinion.

And that’s where companies need to be clearer, communication experts say. It’s the undefined gray (not red or blue) area of being too strict or too informal toward friendly political debates that can lead to trouble, says Robert Benjamin, a Portland-based mediation and conflict consultant. “In our culture we have strong feelings on standing on principle,” he says.

After all, Benjamin says, a little debate in the workplace stimulates creativity and competition. But the worst action a business can take is circulating a memo or stuffing a new rule into the employee handbook prohibiting such discussions. “It only pisses people off,” he says, and lets workers avoid taking responsibility for their social skills.

To avoid a political office brawl, Lockard suggests supervisors be more proactive by setting an example and talking with employees individually about proper discussions on the job. “There is no hard and fast rule,” she says. In a dire situation, Benjamin says a business should hire a communication expert.

To her dismay, Lockard says the business environment is becoming too casual. “You have to remember what you are there for,” she says — work,  not politics.  

JASON SHUFFLER


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


 

More Articles

The Good Hacker

May 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
BY CHRIS HIGGINS

As digital security breaches skyrocket, a cybersleuth everyman takes center stage.


Read more...

Photo Diary: Forest Grove Farmers Market

The Latest
Thursday, May 14, 2015
IMG 8469BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

There are more than 160 farmers markets in Oregon, contributing an estimated $50 million in sales, according to the Oregon Farmers Markets Association. We checked in on the Forest Grove market, which for several years has brought local produce and food vendors to Main Street in the center of town.


Read more...

Foundations perspective

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Martha Richards, executive director of the James F. & Marion L. Miller Foundation.


Read more...

An uncertain future

Guest Blog
Thursday, May 21, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

Uncertainty is a part of doing business, whether in through the lens of investment opportunities and risks or the business of running an enterprise.


Read more...

Fighting Fire With Fire

May 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
BY BEN DEJARNETTE | INVESTIGATEWEST

Timber companies and environmental groups take a stab at collaboration to boost logging and restoration in Oregon fires.


Read more...

The Health Guru

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Mohan Nair channels a visionary.


Read more...

Downtime with the executive director of Greater Portland Inc.

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Janet LaBar, Executive director, Greater Portland Inc.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS