Managing the Impact of Polarizing Politics in the Workplace

The Impact of Polarization Politics on the Workforce

Today America is an incredibly politically polarized country. With each passing day, the gap between liberal and conservatives widens. Each morning, Republicans view Democrats as crazy, wrong-headed people while Democrats see them as wrong, misguided people. This increasing political gap is not about to go anywhere. If anything, it’s slowly finding its way in the once bipartisan American workforce. That said, what is the impact of polarization politics on your workforce?

The Effect of Polarization Politics on the Workforce

Americans have always been bipartisan people. They are therefore used to working in environments where most of their workmates either share similar political opinions, or even if they support different parties, they find a common working ground. However, as noted, the gap between Republicans and Democrats, liberals, and conservatives is wider today more than any other time in American history. The effects of this increasing polarization on the workplace are both positive and negative as explained below.

The Dark Side

In the past, employees only worried about the future of their jobs. Today, the increasing political polarization means that they are more concerned about the future of the country. Democrats think that the nation is in the wrong hands while Republicans believe that they are right.

These different perspectives mean that it becomes hard to become innovative and boost productivity when all anyone wants to discuss is the state of political affairs. As you know, a key ingredient to productivity in the workplace is teamwork. Unfortunately, the more politically opposed employees are, the harder it becomes for them to work together, which in turn affects the entity’s success.

The Bright Side

On the bright side, if managed well, a politically polarized team can also be a blessing to your business. This is because they both bring different ideas and viewpoints to the table, which in turn benefits your business. Also, politically polarized teams are likely to argue out any workplace policies before they are implemented, which means that the workplace becomes a free and fair working environment for all.

Managing a Politically Polarized Team

How do you ensure that you only reap the benefits of political polarization and don’t end up with a dysfunctional team that can barely work together?

  1. Let the World Know. Let your commitment to political diversity be known to all. In all job application forms, and during candidate interviews, let those aspiring to join your team know what’s on the table.  That way, they can choose to walk away early if they prefer environments where everyone supports a particular party. If they decide to take the deal, also let them know about the regulations on political conversations.
  2. Strike a Balance in Political Diversity. As mentioned, the impact of polarization politics can be both beneficial and at the same time, may have adverse effects on your team. To reap the benefits, striking a balance is vital. In other words, you ought to make the most out of political diversity by striking a balance in your workforce.Hiring one Republican when the rest of the workforce is made of Democrats will only put them in an awkward position. Hiring a single conservative when the rest of your employees are liberals will only force them to choose sides. Therefore, the key to managing and making the most of political polarization is maintaining a politically diverse team.
  3. Set the Rules. As mentioned, each party thinks their side of politics is better than the other. Therefore a simple conversation on last night’s news headlines during lunch or tea break could quickly go from zero to 100, leaving your team miserably divided and consequently affecting productivity.  Therefore, while striking a balance is a step in the right direction to making the most out of political diversity, it’s not enough. Ensure you set clear boundaries about political conversations in the workplace. To prevent them from escalating and affecting your workforce, have clear rules that dictate respectful conversations; and, enforce them by outlining what happens when one violates the rules.

Finally

Political polarization in the workplace is now a reality. The sooner we accept this, the easier it will be to weed out the adverse effects. Fortunately, managing political polarization is not rocket science. It takes simple steps, such as ensuring everyone you hire is aware of the work environment they are about to join, striking a balance, and setting clear, concise rules.

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