05 Nov Politics in the Workplace: HR’s Guide to the Election Season
There’s no question that the closer we get to the election, the more difficult it becomes for a worker to distance themselves from politics. Whether they’re listening to the news on their way to work or standing in the office kitchen waiting for their leftovers to heat up, political talk seems to permeate upon every part of our day.
But should we really be talking politics at the office? What if an employee requests time off to go vote? Do you have to let them? Don’t worry, Hireology has you covered.
Hireology’s Do’s & Don’ts of Politics in the Workplace
What is proper etiquette when it comes to discussing politics in the office? We’re the experts, and as a rule of thumb, tread lightly; you don’t want to cause any tension amongst co-workers. By following these do’s and don’ts, your company and your company culture will resist the conflicts of election season.
Make sure employees are aware of any guidelines that prohibit bringing campaign materials into the office. If that includes restrictions on wearing political clothing, setting your desktop screen to a picture of your preferred candidate or sending out emails in support of a candidate, make sure they know that as well. Send out a reminder email about theses guidelines and recommend that all employees err on the side of caution when it comes to deciding what to bring to the office.
If political talk does arise, encourage everyone to play nice and not take any politically charged comments personally. It’s best to avoid conflict and think of the discussion (or debate) as just a conversation. By keeping political conversations friendly, the office culture will not suffer.
When conversations do turn heated, encourage employees to walk away. There’s nothing wrong with using a little white lie such as “I have to run an errand” or “I have to make a phone call” as long as it gets you out of a tense situation. But as Lynze Wardle Lenio shares in her blog post on the Daily Muse, agreeing to disagree is the best solution. By doing so, no one walks away with hard (or hurt) feelings.
Allow your employees to leave the office to vote on Election Day. Not only is it a common courtesy, in many places it’s the law to give employees paid time off in order to vote. Business Management Daily has a list of voting laws by state. If you’re unsure of the law in your state, check the list at the following link just to be safe. http://hr.blr.com/state-comparison-charts/Does-My-State-have-Voting-Laws-Map
Even if you’re not at work, it’s still important to think before you speak. Don’t rant on Facebook about why you hate candidate X if you’re Facebook friends with your co-workers. Chances are good that not everyone feels the same as you, and you don’t want anyone walking up to you the next day calling you out for your political beliefs.
Discussing any heated issues at the office, even with co-workers who have the same views, is a bad idea and should be avoided at all costs. You don’t want others overhearing your conversation and then complaining to HR (unless you are HR, then things get messy…). Views on heated topics typically stem from religious or moral beliefs and bringing up such topics can easily strike a nerve with people. Plus, you can get into serious legal trouble if someone feels that they were attacked for their religious beliefs.
It can be hard be avoid discussing politics in the workplace, but it’s imperative to refrain from bringing up politics in an interview. Not only can it hurt the candidate experience; but if that candidate takes to the Internet to share their horror story of your political talk during the interview, it could cause major damage to your company image.
Discussing Politics in the Office
The Wall Street Journal found that employers typically take one of three approaches to dealing with political discus- sions in the office: Ignoring, discouraging or embracing. The approach you implement within the company should be based on the best interest of the entire team, not just a handful of director-level employees.
Are there just a handful of employees who make it their life’s goal to sway others into believing their values and beliefs are superior? Perhaps it would be best to simply ignore them anytime politics are brought up.
Do you have a relatively confrontational team who are so set in their ways that they refuse to accept any beliefs or ideas other than their own? Send out a friendly reminder that talking politics should be done outside of working hours (and even then it’s iffy).
What if you have an office full of open-minded people who enjoy working alongside each other? Make like Boston-based clothing company Karmaloop and embrace it! A friendly discussion never hurt anyone; plus, it’s a great way to nurture company culture!
By looking at the team as a whole, you can make the best decision as to whether or not any guidelines need to be put in place. Just remember to not let your own political beliefs get in the way when setting guidelines about political talk in the office.
Illegal Interview Questions – The “Election Season” Edition
Everyone knows not to talk about the “Big Three” at work (money, politics, and religion) but what about when the only thing the media are talking about 24/7 is politics? Does that make it OK inside a job interview? Maybe it’s just an accident and it slips out, or maybe hiring managers around the country are taking advan- tage of the political season by casually inquiring about a job candidate’s views during an interview.
Either way, it’s totally illegal and unethical. Need to check yourself? Here are the most common sneaky political and totally illegal interview questions asked in an job interview:
1. “So, are you voting next week?”
Ahh… a sneaky starting question that usually leads to a heated political discussion. What a way to con your candidates into blurting out something they will instantly regret so you can mentally ding* them on the spot. It’s definitely not OK to move them on to the next interviewing phase if their views reflect your own. (Just because they support a certain candidate doesn’t mean they are going to make a great Sales Manager.)
*ding or dinging is a word used by Hireologists to describe the action of turning down a candidate or physically pressing the thumbs down button in Hireology to take an unqualified candidate out of the running.
2. “Are you involved in any political organizations?”
Ooh tricky one! The candidate could think that you want to hear their involvement and participation in extra curricular activities and give you the full run down of their campaign work. But really, you just want to hear what political party they represent so you can choose to hire them or not. To avoid a potential lawsuit or the candidate making a stink on social media, don’t ask anything about political affiliations.
3. “How do you feel about Obamacare?”
This is one of the hottest issues of the election. It’s also a much debated and heated topic in health care. If you are hiring for a health care position, the candidate might not find this question sketchy and give you their full honest answer. Don’t be an unethical hiring manager and avoid any election issues in interviews.
4. “Will your religious beliefs affect your vote?”
Ouch. This is a double “Big Three” fail. There is no possible way this question can turn out to be legal and it’s down-right wrong for you to ask. Avoid any questions relating to religion in a job interview, no matter what.
5. “Who do you think won the debate last night?”
This question is pretty innocent. The candidate doesn’t have to choose a side and they can be pretty unbiased here. However this kind of small talk question usually leads to a full blown discussion where a candidate can reveal their political side. Not something you want to dive into. Avoid any questions about debates, they get people way too heated.
Talking politics in interviews is just a lawsuit waiting to happen. Don’t risk your job or your company trying to figure out if your candidate wants to, “Believe in America” or move “Forward.” Instead, focus on what traits will make them the right person for the job, even after November 6. As Tammy Gooler Loeb, a career and executive coach in the Boston area said in The Ladder’s blog, “when it comes to your personal politics, it’s best to save that for the voting booth.”We couldn’t agree more.
Does Your State Have Voting Leave Laws?
It’s a well-known fact that federal law protects citizens’ right to vote; however, there is no federal law that mandates employers give employees a specific amount of time off to do so. Many states have taken care of this and instated their own laws. Some states require employees to give reasonable notice of absence to the employer. Also, many state laws require employees to use their available time outside of work hours to cast their votes if there is sufficient time before or after work to get to local polls.
Does your state have time off for voting laws? Find out if you get time off at http://hr.blr.com/state-comparison-charts/Does-My-State-have-Voting-Laws-Map/
Keeping a calm office during the election is going to be hard work but don’t let that affect the culture and environment you have worked hard to create. Speaking of politics and elections, keep this quote by President John F. Kennedy in mind throughout the election:
“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.”
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