Office policy: Keep politics in its place

| Print |  Email
Archives - September 2008
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 best crisis is the one you avoid

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
crisisthumbBY GARY CONKLING | GUEST BLOGGER

Avoiding a crisis is a great way to burnish your reputation, increase brand loyalty and become a market leader.


Read more...

5 questions for inDinero CEO Jessica Mah

The Latest
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
jessicathumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

inDinero, a business that manages back-office accounting for startups and smaller companies, recently announced it would relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Portland. We talked to CEO Jessica Mah about what drew her to Portland and how she plans to disrupt the traditional CPA model.


Read more...

European Vacation

Guest Blog
Thursday, April 23, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

There are winners and losers with a strengthening U.S. dollar.


Read more...

Epitaph for a Boondoggle

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

The CRC is a cautionary tale about how we plan for, finance and invest in transportation infrastructure.


Read more...

5 highlights from the Angel Oregon Showcase

The Latest
Thursday, April 23, 2015
IMG 5069BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well at the Oregon Angel showcase, an annual event for angel investors and early stage entrepreneurs.


Read more...

On the Road

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

My daughter turned 18 last week, and for her birthday I got her a Car2Go membership. Not to label myself a disruptor or anything, but it felt like a groundbreaking moment. The two of us, mother and child, were participating in a new teen rite of passage: Instead of handing over the car keys, I handed over a car-sharing card — with the caveat that she not use the gift as her own personal car service.


Read more...

10 Oregon companies positioning themselves for growth

The Latest
Friday, March 13, 2015
vcthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Ten startups have secured venture capital, angel or seed funding in 2015.


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