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Employee Relations: The Other Side of Office Politics

Original post ubabenefits.com

Everyone is aware of office politics, but what about politics in the office? Whether you label yourself as a republican, democrat, independent, liberal, conservative, or anything else, it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself. During an election year, people can become quite passionate about which candidate they prefer. Throw a particular issue into the mix, and things can get downright heated. All this creates the perfect storm for getting fired.

It seems so easy to just keep quiet, yet so few people are able to stop when it comes to expressing their political opinions. Have you ever heard people arguing during a meeting? It can be much worse when there’s a clash of politics. At best, espousing an opinion may make others uncomfortable. At worst, that person now becomes alienated or even terminated.

Employees may think that their political opinions are protected as free speech under the First Amendment.  They are wrong! The government may not censor your speech, but an employer has every right to enforce a ban in the workplace. In fact, in “at-will employment” states, employers can fire someone for any reason not prohibited by federal, state, or local laws.

In an article titled, “Electing to Talk Politics at Work has Serious Implications” on the website Workforce, the author discusses that a business owner or boss may easily fire someone if their political opinions are different. Yet, even if they align, an employee still may be fired if they cross the line from good to poor judgement.

Some examples of poor judgement would be if two or more employees get into an argument over politics.  Doing so wastes valuable work time and usually has a negative effect on morale. If an employee uses discriminatory language, such as an inappropriate comment about a candidate’s gender, race, age, etc., then an employer has an obligation to address this. Otherwise, the employer may be held liable for promoting a hostile work environment.

And just because employees aren’t at their place of work doesn’t mean they should let down their guard. If an employee is representing the company at an event, at a vendor, or at a meeting with another company, they can be labeled unfavorably by discussing their political views. Plus, if an employee is being interviewed, even if it’s at a political rally, they would be well-advised to avoid anything that identifies them as working for a specific employer such as the company name or logo on a shirt, hat, uniform, etc.

Most everyone has formed an opinion on a few political issues, and some of those opinions may be stronger than others. Regardless, it’s best to just walk away from any political discussion in the workplace. If an employee does decide to jump into the fire and discuss his or her side of the subject, then it’s best to think before speaking or that person may argue themself out of a job.