When politics is all over UK television and a topic of discussion in every pub, it would be odd if people didn’t talk about it at work. Even if the company itself is scrupulously neutral, individual employees will still have opinions and sometimes those opinions can lead to conflict. How can you manage office politics to ensure that no one feels bullied and business can carry on as usual?
As with any kind of workplace conflict, the key is to prevent things from becoming personal. You can start by making a “no personal attacks” rule, which means it’s okay for employees to share their ideas but not to call each other stupid or use other slurs. If they blatantly breach this rule, you can discipline them as you would for any other form of bullying. It’s important that you don’t let your own political beliefs come into it. This doesn’t mean you have to keep them secret but it does mean you have to show respect for those whose views differ; you can use this to set a positive example.
One way to keep people from arguing over politics is to encourage them to speculate about politics, working out who’s likely to make deals with whom and what the latest polling figures might mean. This can provide you with a sneaky way to encourage them to develop skills that are useful in the workplace: understanding statistics, doing speedy mental arithmetic, assessing people’s skills and anticipating their behaviour. It can also help employees who have been at odds to understand that their passion for politics means they have something in common.
Conflict resolution is never easy and some managers shy away from it, however, stepping in early means you can turn an emotional dispute into an intellectual discussion that encourages creative thinking.