From taking a libertarian approach to holding specific forums, here are seven answers to the question, “What are some helpful strategies that reduce political polarization in the workplace?”
- Take a Libertarian Approach to Politics at Work
- Align Core Values With Employee Behaviors
- Lead by Example
- Promote Diversity and Inclusivity
- Encourage Healthy Disagreement
- Foster Respect
- Provide Forums for Dialogue
Take a Libertarian Approach to Politics at Work
The philosophy of libertarianism, which is separate and distinct from the Libertarian Party, is about accepting other people’s views so long as their actions don’t harm others. This is known as the Non-Aggression Principle or NAP.
If you want to reduce political polarization in the workplace, then encourage people to adopt this mindset. Most people see politics as a spectrum from liberal at one end to conservative at the other, with “moderate” in the middle.
With a libertarian mindset, you would accept that people can fall anywhere on this spectrum. The litmus test is how they act on their beliefs. If they live their own lives in one way or another but don’t try to force others to be the same, then they’re good by libertarian standards. However, if they try to force other people to comply with their moral and economic beliefs, then they’re violating the NAP. Strive for a diversity of thought within your organization so long as people accept others’ differences.
Align Core Values With Employee Behaviors
I have never insisted that discussions about politics within the workplace are off-limits. Rather, aligning any conversation within the confines of work (which can include when employees are working from their home office, during business hours) with the values and core beliefs of the organization (political in nature, or not) helps to more specifically outline and enforce what is and is not acceptable within the workplace.
Lead by Example
Politics are a big part of life for some people, and natural conversations about politics may break out in the workplace. I’ve found that the best way to reduce any negative habits, attitudes, or anything that can disrupt the workplace is to lead by example.
When you have conversations with employees, you never know who is listening or watching. Make a conscious effort to not bring up politics or engage in political talk. If someone tries to bring up politics, moving the conversation in a different direction or letting them know you have to get back to work is a great way to reduce political polarization in the workplace. Don’t let different opinions fire you up, even if you hear them. When you lead by example, others will take notice.
Promote Diversity and Inclusivity
Ensuring that the workplace has a varied pool of employees from all walks of life reduces the chances of polarization occurring at the workplace. Having team members from different cultural backgrounds prevents political segregation from occurring.
Cultural diversification ensures that everyone embraces their differences and embraces others. This initiative helps to reduce polarization and create a more cohesive and respectful work environment.
Encourage Healthy Disagreement
Help parties to encourage idea exchange rather than positional “right” or “wrong” arguments. This can be done by emphasizing empathy and curiosity in problem-solving or other complex business decision-making. People learn to be more receptive to different points of view, depersonalize them, and focus on alignment and collaboration.
People don’t have to agree on everything, but in the workplace, there needs to be basic respect if everyone is to get along. This means putting any form of mockery to a quick end, be it in the form of jokes, passive-aggressive comments, or anything else meant to poke fun at another’s beliefs, opinions, or feelings.
Make sure that all members of your team know that polarizing topics should not be spoken on if the topic in question is too hot to be treated respectfully. While you may not need to ban polarizing topics entirely from your workplace, it is important to make sure that everyone follows the rules of basic respect for their fellow workers. Conversations that can’t be handled professionally shouldn’t be allowed to fester and cause damage to your work environment.
Provide Forums for Dialogue
One strategy to tackle and reduce political polarization in the workplace is to consistently create open forums for dialogue. By doing so, it sends a message that we value the opinions and beliefs of employees while creating the appropriate outlet to share those thoughts, concerns, and beliefs in a safe space. It can also help the third side, or those who are not as polarized, speak as well because they may not feel as left out or alone once they are encouraged to share.