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Updated Feb 14, 2024

Don’t Let Politics Divide Your Workforce

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Dr. Ben Baran is an associate professor at Cleveland State University and co-founder of Elevating What Works.

Conversations about politics can be tricky — and in the workplace, you don’t want them to create conflict. It’s likely that people on your team have differing viewpoints on a variety of issues and candidates, and if those differences turn into arguments, you may have a real problem on your hands.

The big issue is that high-performing teams need people who trust each other, and arguing about deeply held political positions can damage that trust. They may even avoid each other completely. This may even happen if people simply know about another person’s views; they don’t even have to be arguing about it openly.

So what might be some ways to get ahead of this potential problem?

Researchers recently provided a number of insights to guide your efforts. You can do this, they suggest, by remembering ART — Acknowledge, Respect, and Trust:

  • First, acknowledge what the team’s big goals are and find opportunities to recognize how each person’s efforts contribute to those goals. That helps everyone see how everyone else is important for success.
  • Second, build respect and connections within the team by highlighting what people have in common. If any team members seem to be disengaging, have thoughtful one-on-one conversations with them to dispel any myths about other team members.
  • Third, be a role model of trust within your team. Show others how to be respectful by demonstrating curiosity and empathy with others.

Some circumstances might call for you to address political polarization in your team head-on. As a general rule, if it’s affecting performance or engagement, step in. When you do, address the topic in a caring way.

Agreeing to disagree on political issues is totally acceptable, so long as all parties involved continue to work together respectfully.

This article first appeared in the b. Newsletter. Subscribe now!

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