Politics in the workplace is more than office politics
We are living in highly charged times with key issues both social and political consuming many at home and in the workplace. Social media and 24-hour news, catapult hot issues on to the public radar immediately. People’s professional and personal lives increasingly overlap. Old school rules around not talking about sex, politics or religion at work are history and even the mildest comment can make office chit-chat dangerous territory. Politics in the workplace has become a sensitive issue to navigate for both individuals as well as managers.
Political anxiety and stress
50% of all Americans find the elections a source of stress according to the American Pyschological Association. The City of London Nightingale Hospital, the only private mental health hospital in London, has reported a 10% spike of patients needing treatement for anxiety and depression, associated with the impact of the recent EU referendum. There is is not doubt that the uncertain times we live in are taking their toll. Political Anxiety has been identified as a new disorder with coaches and therapists experiencing increased demand for their services.
Every time we turn on the television we see conduct that leaves much to be desired and disillusionment in our leadership and anxiety about the future is widespread.
Politics in the Workplace
Jamie-Lee a para legal in an employment law firm in Miami was astounded to find that her long-standing colleague was a Trump supporter.
“My view of her changed immediately. I couldn’t understand how someone who was an intelligent, educated woman of color could fall for his racist, misogynist bigotry. Likewise, she thinks I have been taken in by Clinton’s lies and deceit. This election has been very much about gender and there are still some women who will vote for him. Latino employees are also very angry. For the first time women seem to be more highly engaged and vocal because the campaign has such an aggressive and sexist tone.”
On the other side of the world Amelia a manager in a recruitment company in the construction sector, described the falling out within her office over Brexit. The younger generations felt betrayed by older more conservative colleagues and there was tension, as individual standpoints became clear.
“We recruit in the EU to fill our open assignments. But the atmosphere in the office was deteriorating and I had to raise the issue in our weekly meeting. I emphasised that we had to put aside our differences and whatever happens outside we have to deal with the outcome in a professional way, regardless of our political views to meet our business objectives. There was significant tension when Head Office announced the shift of one of our hubs to Frankfurt. It’s going to take some time to restore the balance and will depend on the longer term impact. There is no doubt that if jobs are lost then Brexiteers will be blamed. Now no one talks about it at all, to avoid embarassment or conflict, which creates a different set of management challenges.”
7 tips to handle politics in the workplace
1 Leadership input will be helpful if tensions are accentuated. You don’t want your office to become a battleground. Use this as an opportunity to learn how to manage differences in a more positive way. Many companies have no policies on this subject.
2. Managers and supervisors should look out for potential areas of stress or tension and monitor from a distance.
3. Set firm time boundaries around discussions to avoid damaging conflict. Some offices are discouraging politics from water cooler discussions as near as possible without contravening freedom of speech laws.
4. Finding a way forward, to protect the interest of the organisation despite seeing things differently, is critical.
5. Many people are suggesting that these issues are so deep that they can’t even talk to their colleagues about them. That too can be equally damaging and is worth managers monitoring.
6. Some companies have hired counsellors specifically to deal with election stress. Ask for a consult if you feel especially anxious.
7. Many suggest that social media is a catalyst especially the vitriole that can be found in the comments sections of posts. So just don’t go into your social media accounts.
Book a coaching session with a 3Plus coach to reduce the stress in your life.