Talking Politics in the Workplace—OK as Mental Health or HR Issue?
Your employees know they can traditionally “get in trouble” if they talk about certain topics—say politics—in the workplace. Which, in turn, makes it frustrating and confusing when something happens in the country and your employees want to comment on it.
So, What Do They Do?
- They ignore the topic and try to pretend nothing is up.
- Talk about it only with people they trust, at times looking over their shoulder just in case.
- The one office instigator brings it up, making everyone super uncomfortable.
And if you haven’t created the space for your team to bring up “hot topics,” there’s going to be fireworks.
Let’s Have an Honest Chat
Why are certain events taboo to talk about in the workplace? Who declared them “taboo”? Short answer: Us, as a collective. Because imagine having a political debate in the break room, getting heated at your co-worker, and then turn around to go into a sales forecasting meeting like nothing ever happened.
But When Does It Go Beyond Politics and Into Mental Health?
In the interest of keeping this post evergreen, as of late, we’ve seen some heavy political events in the U.S. that no one could ignore. Instead, even if at work, every five seconds we could, we kept a pulse on social media or preferred news avenue to follow the story.
Were We Wrong?
No, no one is wrong. We spend one third of our lives at work. And when political, national or world events hit us like a ton of bricks, the human being within us simply can’t avoid watching.
We are in solidarity and we sympathize, empathize, feel sorry, want to be there, want it to stop, wonder why we can’t achieve peace, all while pretending to pay attention to our spreadsheet. Our hearts break when disaster strikes and some of us need to talk.
What Can You Do As An Employer?
Remember, work is a big chunk of our lives. Acting like nothing happened may just be a disservice to your team.
Work With Your HR Team
Sure, not everyone wants to talk about it. Some people just want to go home after work and that’s OK, too. But maybe some need to talk about what just happened because:
- They can’t concentrate on work because of the event.
- The event has so struck their humanity, they’re not OK.
- They don’t have a safe place to talk about it when they do go home.
So please, revisit your HR Policies and Procedures Manual and consider offering mental professional help. When the outside world collides with our humanity and we can’t hide it, some may just need support.
As Leadership, Give Yourself Permission to Acknowledge the Issue
No need to take sides here. It can be as simple as, “Hey, this big thing happened on Wednesday. If this has rocked you, if you feel you need time, we have resources that can help you work through this.” (Be sure to offer the resources).
But Do It With Grace and Balance
Your employees who did take you up on help shouldn’t stick out for everyone to see. This opens them up to potential scrutiny. Protect them. It’s a delicate balance and it may sound like a lot, but as employers, we hold a responsibility to our people.
At the End of the Day
You can sweep the situation under the rug or you can manage the conversation professionally engaging your HR team. Our workspaces are changing. The world is changing, too. Find the balance, create the space, and serve your team wisely.
Who Are We?
We are Miranda Park Learning, your instructional design experts. If you need help updating or creating your HR Manual, contact us. We’ll help you get this important piece of the puzzle ready for your team.
Picture: Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels
This blog was written by Miranda Park Learning and has been verified unique by Copyscape