Once upon a time the Queen’s Mother said don’t talk politics or religion at work or dinner. I’m in HR, that makes total sense. It’s difficult at times because I need to talk about how politics could influence change in a law. I’m exhausted from trying to be in the middle. Between the ACA, the Overtime Rule wrangling and this election I AM DONE! So here we go my pretties…
I can’t care who won or lost this election during the hours of 8-5. I know you might (and probably do), but no one at work needs to know how you feel. As a matter of fact, no one should know. Remember when you first learned what employers could ask during interviews? There is a list of topics not to discuss… Age, Nationality, Sexual Orientation, Health and POLITICAL AFFILIATION are just a few. In the first 100 days, its seems we are only talking about things on that list! I wish I could hide in my castle until it stops, but it’s not slowing down and I am fearing the backlash in the workplace. I can’t cast a spell, instead here is some advice on how to walk the neutral line.
Social Media… I have always advised against friending employees or clients. What you find out on Facebook or Instagram can give you knowledge of things you shouldn’t know (lifestyle, religion, health issues and sexual orientation). It’s especially true now. If you want to see how people feel about this election just log in. But the world is small and even if I don’t friend you, someone I know has and I’m going to see that my friend liked your political rant on something. I’m not speaking to which side is correct here, just that there is lots of talk. If you are connected on-line with EVERYONE you need to be careful about broadcasting your views.
The lunch room or hallway… “hey did you see that tweet?” Did you just see the HR lady faint? “yeah, what an idiot/genius he is!” HR lady is now holding her breath that an argument doesn’t break out right now. What if that exchange is between a manager and employee? What if reviews are the next week? Can you prove the raise/promotion that wasn’t given had no bearing on that conversation? And what of the venomous conversations? If someone in your office is so angry and accusatory at people who are on the other side. It could be construed as a hostile work environment.
Bulletin boards and cubicles…
Just like naked pictures and Hooters calendars, political statements could be offensive. You don’t want to shut down 1st amendment rights, but you also don’t want to create a hostile work environment. Employers or managers should be especially careful when deciding what to allow to be posted in the office.
At an office event… I may have been at a conference recently where the owner stood up giving the toast for the evening and cheered for the new administration. There was a definite group of loud cheers and a group of uncomfortable forced golf claps. At a Christmas party, a boss joked about only paying for health premiums for those that voted for his candidate. Again, HR lady on the floor (I think I’ll be there a lot for a while). Keep it light, it’s an office party.
Strikes and Boycotts… The day of the inauguration I was at a youth center client and there was a room of people painting. They were boycotting the election by not going to work and doing something positive for the day. There is now a movement for a National Women’s Boycott where women won’t go to work. As a manager, you may want to get ahead of this and be clear about how employees should request time off and restate your “sick” day policy.
I may be setting the movement back years, but here are my final thoughts as the HR lady. As passionate as you may be right now, be cautious before disclosing your political views at work. That information can’t be taken back and you’ve removed one of your protections under the law VOLUNTARILY. Some of you won’t care and believe it’s your right, it is. But it’s important to me that you do so after stepping back and weighing that decision. March on or celebrate during the weekend, exercise your rights and choose to get involved. In 20 years, I’ve never had to address an election because no one cared enough. There seems to be passion on both sides, so I think in a way we’ve all won. You may not agree, so let’s meet up and debate it on Saturday.