Sunday, January 8, 2012

Office Politics

Office politics may be something we all talk about – but in an election year, the expression takes on a whole new meaning.  As a behavior brought about by those who seek power and influence, consider the potential for staff in your organization to desire the power and influence to see their party or candidate take office come Election Day.  

Hot-button issues like the economy, unemployment, and healthcare are hitting-home and leading people to become more opinionated and more entrenched in their beliefs.  Friendly conversation about current events can quickly turn into heated debate.  Repeat interactions may lead some to feel pushed, challenged, or bullied.  It is these office politics that threaten to derail your business as they undermine morale, hinder teamwork, damage productivity, and may also lead to more troubling (and potentially litigious) behaviors – all of which are sure to linger beyond Election Day.

The best strategy for keeping these office politics at bay is to get in front of them and plan ahead.  

Steps to Take
1 – Review your company policy on social or political behavior.  This may also overlap with policies on diversity.  Are there policies addressing the use the display or demonstration of affiliations, etc.?

2 – Determine what will be acceptable company behavior.  Some thoughts to consider:
  • If friendly debate/conversation is allowed, is it limited to lunch and break rooms?
  • Can a person post their affiliation in their office/cubicle?
  • Is staff allowed to congregate or campaign on company grounds?
  • How does title/role play a part in determining what a person can/cannot say?
3 – Consult with your company attorney.  While 1st Amendment Rights were created to establish political freedom, the workplace is not public property and therefore is not the appropriate forum for enacting those rights.  

4 – Talk with your staff.  Be sure all staff know the position of the company regarding these behaviors, and how they may address any concerns which still arise.  Be clear about rules and consequences.

5 – Be Consistent.  Nothing is more troubling or will lead to more discord than allowing some individuals to express their beliefs freely while others are held accountable.  This is especially true if the rules seem to favor a certain individual, a particular rank within the company, or a given political party.

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