Even as large companies have resorted to laying off staff due to their political views in the workplace or on social media, encouraging political debates inside a team can be a mine field. However there are ways to do it adeptly, which can increase the knowledge base of teams on issues that can impact business.
However if your’e an employee, it can be different. Think your boss or colleagues are cool with your political views? Think again. You may be entering a minefield of potentially explosive political tensions, especially if you work in a highly charged political environment. Here are a few tips on how to tackle the issue of freedom of speech at the workplace and deal with opposite views on the political spectrum in teams.
Strategies To Tackle:
1. Understand your organization’s political positioning. Many large companies and their majority shareholders have clear political ideologies that are sometimes hidden in plain sight or from public shareholders. Carefully research the owner’s political views, company’s website, and its employees’ social media presence, before making a decision to join the company.
2. Talk to other employees. Sometimes you can gain insight about an organization by talking to people with different viewpoints than your own, prior to joining a company or a team inside the company.
3. If you cannot deal with a company’s owner’s views, understand a particular team’s culture, you’re keen on joining. Research the ethics codes for the organization, especially when it comes to dealing with the public and the media. Does it take a stance on certain views that relate to fairness, justice, equality or society. Talk to the HR in case of any confusion.
4. If you are taking charge as a team leader, remember that political diversity is a strength, not a cons. However, getting members to express political views in casual banter, can lead to harsh fights between colleagues and dampen team spirit. Leave political leaning aside when conducting team meetings, and lean on fairness and justice, as defined by the company’s HR policies.
5. Consider your employer’s political motivations, if you are rising up in the ladder. Expressing a view on a social media platform, if you live in a political dictatorship / autocracy may not make you liable for judicial protection for your views. If your political leanings hurt your employer’s growth, you may well consider yourselves out, in the long to medium term.
Going all out and taking a stand:
6.However, if there are certain views you wish to stand up to even at the risk of losing this job, or a career, as many do, you may as well, take the step, and stand up for your own rights and views. It may help you, others employees with similar views, and also the organisation in the long term.
7. If you want to attend a union meeting, attend it. If you feel it is time to speak out on an issue, speak out. Don’t be bullied by a teammate if it’s because of your political standing, that you are being sidelined. However, do take into account that employees come into the workplace for a certain goal – to achieve the company’s goals of sales. If you wish to give an outlet to your political standings, do join social and political organisations, after hours and on weekends.
8. Ask for permission. If you feel like your boss is not on board with your political opinions, ask permission to speak out. If your workplace culture is cool with it, then go for it.
9. Certain teams laugh off on both sides of the spectrum. Think of it as your choice, if designing a political philosophy for your team. Employees should ideally be encouraged to express themselves in the workplace and peacefully. Others should be willing to take their views with a pinch of salt. As a team leader, you may play the role of the balancing act and encourage healthy discussions which may increase the overall knowledge ability of the team.
10. Think of it as an experiment, if unsure as a team leader. If the views become extreme, it’s safe to avoid politico-conversations in the workplace, unless they are important to a company’s or a project’s PESTEL analysis.
11. Put it in writing. If you want to formally advocate for a cause, or have guidelines for employees on having their views expressed in public, put it in writing. As human beings, having a political bias may come as natural. However, do not let that bias impact hiring / promotion decisions in teams. HR can put out special guidelines for employees on how to express themselves in the public domain.
Assess Your Employer Prior To Joining:
1. Is the organisation polarised? Think about it from an organisational standpoint. It may be difficult for people to accept your point of view. If you feel like your boss or coworkers are expressing negative viewpoints, you may want to consider another job.
2. Is there job security? Your employer may use your political views as a threat, particularly if the business is tied to a political party. If you do not believe your job is secure, or you are worried about speaking out about a particular issue, then you may want to consider another job. Consider or research any such incidents in the past taken by the employer.
3. Does the company publicly support a particular political party? This could be a warning sign prior to joining. Sometimes employers will limit the political expression of staff in order to avoid a negative reaction from customers and vendors, which may be a good mechanism to prevent political or brand damage.
Being Attacked Because Of Your Ethnicity, Religion Or Race?
1. Take a breath. There are times when you may want to stay quiet, especially if your employer is attacking your point of view or your ethnicity. But there are also times when you may need to speak out. If the environment has become overtly hostile, you may have to escalate the conflict and demand a formal meeting with a boss or superboss.
2. Report. If you are repeatedly being attacked inside a team for your views, or if the situation continues to get worse, you may want to report your concerns to the HR and department head. Don’t be afraid to be straightforward, speak up, and call attention to the problem, if that’s the case.
3. Speak up. If you are offended, have been racially targeted, because of your ethnicity, race or religion, and you feel like you can speak out without retaliation, it is important to speak up. You may feel like you are exposing your company to negative press, but sometimes a little honesty is better than a lot of denial. Most countries have laws to protect an employee in cases of such discrimination.
Ultimately, How You Respond Is What Counts
1. Control your emotions. It is hard to remain calm when people are calling you names or accusing you of being a rat. Don’t let emotions run your thinking, they will get you nowhere. If you stand up for yourself, you may gain respect. But if you have a family to feed, your political bias may take a second spot. However, if you have a backup plan, don’t be afraid to take the plunge, if your stance can save lives, especially if you are living in a country with a civil war.
2.Many employers themselves have taken political stances in the past, to save a country from falling. Only if a country survives, can an organisation survive, in its entirety, Some employers have been known to play the double game and survive, despite governments and political parties, and wars. Some employers go down in the dark side of history, however others go on the bright side. Assess where your employer stands, especially if your country stands in the midst of a heavy political turmoil.
If you are being attacked verbally in the workplace, because of your race or ethnicity, be clear and direct. Keep the conversation on your terms. Tell your boss that you find the messages offensive. Document them and report to the HR. If you are asked to defend yourself, tell them that the comments are insulting and distracting, and that you are ready to take action.
3. Sometimes when racial discrimination is entrenched in a society, many people don’t hesitate before making a racially loaded remark in a workplace. Your boss may not realise that his statements are offending you, but they very well may be. Making people aware would do good not only to them, but also to others like you, who come in contact with them.
4. Refrain from eulogising a politician. You may well like or idolise a politician, but it’s not advised to sing their praise in the public sphere, especially when you know politicians across the spectrum are known to act in their own self political interests, disguised in a public, noble and social cause.
5.Become knowledgeable. When you become aware of both sides of views on a policy, law, incident or event and its history, you may well stop taking sides and attack the issue objectively. It will also help you support people on both sides of the spectrum on your team. It will increase the knowledge base of teams.