Organization and workplace are no exclusion. We have witnessed that environment and temperament of workplace is affected by larger external environment. People do carry along such contagious temperaments and moods at workplace. In organizations, it is common to find people discussing and debating about political issues and political viewpoints at places like cafeteria, pantry, and water cooler and also during zero hours of meetings. Many a time such casual political conversations take form of aggressive debate and turns into hate speech targeting the political ideology, party or person they don't follow. Loud and harsh statement of an employee directed to a political entity might be taken as personal attack by other colleagues.
During the last presidential election in USA, The American Psychological Association had conducted a survey to study impact of political conversation and discussions at work place.
- 25% of employees were negatively affected by political debates and arguments and they felt more isolated from their colleagues.
- Work place hostility was observed due to continued political discussions at workplace.
- 17% have mentioned that as a result of political discussions they have felt tensed or stressed out.
- 15% of employees have been more cynical and negative at work.
- 10% of employees had more difficulties in getting work done.
- 13% have felt that they have been less productive at work.
- 10% employees also found that as a result of political discussions they have found the quality of their work has been suffered.
In India the quinquennial general elections are approaching and the political temperament and polarization of ideologiesis seen across segments of society, creating subtle hostility. In this pre-election times, not only the nation wants to know but also the nation wants to speak. As the election will approach closer the amount and intensity of political debates are likely to increase at places, including the workplace.
The nation like USA where diversity and regards for personal dignity are high, the political discussions are generating such negative impact, in the culture like us, the political discussions and debates at workplace are more likely to have larger and serious negative impact.
Following are possible measures that can be adapted :
2) As per SHRM report about 24% of companies in USA have formal, and 8% of the companies have informal policies for prohibition of political conversations at workplace. There are no data about such pronounced policy by companies in India. However, in case of setting like us it will not be advisable to put a blanket ban on any such discussions as it may sound contradictory with fundamental rights.
3) Through formal communications, make employees aware and also project to them that any indulgence in such conversations at workplace is being viewed as deterred and distasteful and over indulgence in such activity may negatively hamper one's career prospects.
5) Involvement of leaders and managers in political discussions shall be "Big No". As their views may be perceived as "Management's views", also if they involve themselves, it will be difficult for them to prevent such discussions at workplace.
7) In cafeteria and such places avoid telecasting TV programs likely to stimulate political debates.
9) Make sure that no representative of company gives any interview or opinion regarding political views or ideology, especially during such time of political hyper sensitivity.
(Views expressed are personal)