Political diversity in the workplace is all but unavoidable in 2021. People with varying religious beliefs, cultural identities, and sexual orientations can be found throughout the workforce of almost every business in America. These traits inevitably lead to the creation of different sets of thoughts and ideas.
Diversity has always been one of America’s strengths, but recently, political diversity has seemed to stop the free flow of ideas in its tracks. Editing or omitting your personal political beliefs from friends, family, and colleagues has become a widespread common practice.
Despite this recent trend, political diversity can still be used by leaders as one of their greatest tools. The combination of different ideas from different backgrounds has made America the greatest country in the world – it’s not too late to leverage this same strength in the workplace.
Leveraging political diversity in 2021 can take a delicate touch, so we’ve put some guidelines together to help you. In order for leaders to leverage political diversity in the workplace, they must foster an open and honest environment among employees, preventing hostility when it comes to inappropriate political conversation, and keep up with the most current events that could affect their business or employees.
Being Open and Honest About Political Diversity
Fostering an open and honest work environment can be difficult sometimes. Many workplaces have unknowingly developed an environment that discourages political diversity among employees. This situation can happen for a variety of unintended reasons, such as known executive opinion or local political leanings. Changing the work environment won’t happen overnight but making the change is definitely worth the rewards.
One of the first things leaders can do to create a more open and honest environment is by simply addressing the situation. Everyone knows politics are awkward and divisive right now. It won’t come as a shock to anyone. What will come as a shock to some employees though, is that their workplace leadership is able to address that there are varying beliefs held within the company.
For years Corporate America has made it taboo to talk about politics in the office, this has caused division, frustration, and isolation among employees. Over the last few years though, the lines between personal and professional lives have continued to be muddied, making it nearly impossible to separate one from the other.
Rather than trying to shape the same type of employees, workplace leaders should recognize and openly acknowledge the differences among their employees and encourage them to talk about those differences. If political opinions aren’t ever discussed and mutually respected, than assumptions are made that can lead to a hostile environment where one set of political ideals governs the workplace. This can lead to some employees being excluded or silenced.
This recommendation comes with some risk, and definitely will need to be accompanied by some guidelines, but can help to foster a work environment where everyone feels respected and included. It can also help build a stronger and more resilient workforce that can weather any external political climate.
An Expectation of Mutual Respect
Encouraging employees to discuss their differences can have many positive effects. Increased mutual respect and understanding can be used to create beautiful things, but sometimes things can go downhill.
Under normal circumstances, the word “inclusive” would make perfect sense to use when rationalizing what appropriate political speech is, but in the semantics game of 2021, even this word can sometimes be divisive. We’ll go with “mutual respect.”
Leaders in the workplace need to make crystal clear to their employees that when discussing various political situations or opinions, mutual respect must be exercised at all times. Politically motivated conversations in the workplace should never come at the expense of others.
If an employee breaches this expectation of mutual respect, leaders should be ready to discuss the issue with the employee immediately. When having this conversation, company leaders must practice what they preach and demonstrate mutual respect for diverse political opinions. How can leaders expect their employees to do this if they can’t?
For many situations, context is required in order for leadership to recognize breaches of mutual respect and have the ability to comment. This is why keeping up with the current political landscape is important.
Leaders Should Get Informed
Staying up-to-date on the latest political events has almost become a prerequisite for many conversations in 2021. Leaders should at least be moderately informed in headline news if they want to be able to navigate the political diversity in the workplace.
From manufacturing to mom-and-pop diners, every business has been affected by some of the events that have occurred in the last two years. It’s vitally important that business leaders understand how these events will affect their employees and the possible responses from either side of the debate.
Knowing how each side of the argument will respond will only benefit business leaders, as they can prepare to deal with the inevitable reactions that people will have and mediate conflict, if necessary.
Obviously, there’s not a cut-and-dry way to prepare for these types of conflicts but staying updated will always help you understand the arguments.
For better or for worse, gone are the days of pretending that politics stay at the door when employees come to work. If leaders are informed, have clarified company expectations of mutual respect, and have created an open and honest environment in their office, political diversity can become a strength, rather than a weakness.
Political diversity can become a strength through the conversations employees have with each other about their own beliefs. In many ways, this is how new ideas are born and how company culture is shaped. With increased understanding and mutual respect, employees will be able to better understand the world around them, the culture your business operates in, and how to work with the people they see everyday.