Religion and politics … They’re the two topics you’re told you should never bring up at work or the dinner table. Unfortunately, both, especially politics, get brought into the workplace all the time. During election years especially, this can lead to tense work environments.
Human Resources can and should play a direct role in helping to stabilize these tensions when they rear up. As the go-to place for employee needs, the HR department should be prepared with strategies to de-escalate situations and calm tempers.
Among these strategies are three vital ways that HR departments can promote a peaceful workplace and stabilize political tensions no matter the current event. Here’s what you should know.
1. Emphasize workplace culture and values
Perhaps the first and best thing every HR department should do to help defuse all types of tensions is to stress the importance of workplace culture and values that emphasize shared goals and humanity.
Building company values into the center of all your practices – from hiring to employee outreach efforts – can help sustain cooperation across a workplace. When united across common principles, co-workers can better stay focused on the task at hand. This equates to better results when working across generational and situational differences in any workplace.
HR teams can help emphasize shared culture and values by:
- discussing the power of shared values;
- building a consensus across leadership around company values;
- matching resumes and talent based on company values; and
- creating a set of value statements for the company to reference.
By cementing company values into your foundational processes, your business will better align itself around common goals. Then, even when election-year stress brings up divisive sentiments, HR workers can help turn down the tension by reminding the team of the values at hand in the workplace.
Employees can maintain whatever views they wish, but in the workplace, respect and professionalism take precedent over arguing those views.
2. Maintain an open-door policy
HR departments exist to provide workplaces with the resources necessary for success. This includes providing support nets to help employees manage stress during difficult times. One of the best ways for HR departments to achieve this is by maintaining an open-door policy.
Allowing workers to walk in or set an appointment to discuss challenges and concerns, stressors and workplace difficulties can help stabilize all kinds of tension that emerge in a workplace. By giving employees somewhere to turn for resources or support, you can better provide certainty and confidence even during uncertain times.
Take, for instance, the 2020 United States presidential election. It was days before the results of that election indicated a winner. Even then, the sitting president contested the election, declaring voter fraud and triggering a legal process to contest the election. An HR department looking to maintain peace and defuse high tensions during that time would have maintained an open and transparent environment in which to voice concerns without causing a fight.
Preventing political discussions from polarizing a workplace often comes down to HR. Human Resource Professionals require the communication skills and information sharing tools to keep the facts clear and the attention on workplace objectives.
3. Provide dedicated employee resources
Election years can be difficult times for mental health. One study found that election results equated to 54.6 million more poor mental health days after the 2016 American election. Facing health and productivity risks like this, HR departments should be ready with the kinds of resources needed to keep morale high and tensions low.
Among these resources, HR Professionals should have on hand:
- Referrals to counseling and health services;
- Mediation training and resources; and
- Access to information regarding anger management and communication techniques.
No HR Professional should be expected to take on the role of a counselor for any employee, but they should guide employees to the kinds of resources they might need to stay calm and learn to cooperate even with those with differing beliefs. Trained professional counselors can do a lot more to help manage election-year stress than an HR worker can. Helping workers navigate these resources can be an essential part of diffusing political tensions.
However, HR workers should maintain a skill set that allows them to serve as a mediator for a political dispute. This entails diffusing an argument and getting co-workers to focus on their commonalities.
Every election year brings up all kinds of stressors and problems. In workplaces, this requires maintaining a delicate balance. HR departments needing to stabilize political tensions will be well served by emphasizing workplace values, maintaining an open-door policy, and providing necessary health resources. As a result, employees will better be able to meet their coworkers’ viewpoints with respect even if they disagree.
Political tensions are unavoidable, especially in election years. As an HR worker, you can help by above all providing an empathetic approach to mediating conflict and providing employees with the resources they need to be healthy and productive.
Noah Rue is a journalist and content writer from Boise, Idaho, US. He is fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn’t searching out his next great writing opportunity, Noah likes to shut off his devices and head to the mountains to disconnect.
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