Politics in the workplace

By the HR Dept.

group of people talking using arm gestures

While a productive workplace will see employees come to actively work rather than natter, conversation is an inevitable part of your culture that binds the team together. And while many people prefer not to talk about politics in work, there's always a chance it could be brought up in conversation.

Whilst it might be overkill to ban these discussions, it's important to stay in control of the situation to prevent any lasting damage to your employee relations. 

After no fewer than three general elections plus the Brexit referendum in the four years between 2015 and 2019, we have had to wait another five or so years for the next election this July.

While politics never goes away, the intensity of an election brings the debate into much sharper focus. It is sensible for employers to be on the front foot in providing boundaries for the conversation (if there is any) within the workplace.

A survey just published by a software platform found that one in six workers will fall out with a colleague over political opinion; unsurprisingly to some, Generation Z are more likely to be involved in a political argument, with a quarter of this demographic saying they have been involved in a row.

From a drop in productivity to having to go through a disciplinary process, losing a member of staff to suffering reputational damage through a provocative social media post, there is the potential for many knock-on effects of a political argument at work. So how can you get ahead of the problem?

To ban or not to ban?

While a productive workplace will see employees come primarily to work rather than natter, conversation is inevitable and part of your culture that binds the team together.

Many people prefer not to talk about politics in work anyway. If some of your team are comfortable bringing it into the conversation though, it will, in most circumstances, be overkill to ban political discussion completely. It’s not good for employee relations and could even be argued contravenes the right to freedom of expression given under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

If you have some firebrands in your midst though, you can provide a steer regarding political discussion along the lines of:

  • Work not being an appropriate place to get drawn into long and heated political discussions.
  • Nor is it okay to push views on others or conduct any grassroots campaigning.
  • Respect other people’s right to their own opinion.
  • It is fine to disagree with someone, but still have a civil, professional relationship with them.
  • Be wary of making personal or professional social media posts that could be perceived to bring the company into disrepute.
  • If people can’t abide by these guidelines, you may ban political discussion and invoke disciplinary proceedings.

A good disciplinary and grievance policy will reinforce all of this if anyone oversteps the mark. We can review your current policies or prepare them for you if you currently have none in place.

On election day…

Of course, once all the talking (by the politicians) has stopped it is time to vote. This is a civic duty and while you are under no obligation to make any allowances for employees, it is good for democracy to provide no obstacle to their voting.

With polling stations open from 7am to 10pm, most workers should have ample opportunity to vote on 4th July, either before or after work. But for the few who may struggle, try to do what you can to let them vote in person if they wish to. There are also proxy and postal voting methods (which require pre-registration), which may be a solution too.

Here to help

We are here to prevent people problems so if you find that your workplace is turning too political and would like some outside help, please do not hesitate to get in touch.