Do Politics Have Any Place In The Office?

Politics can interfere with what a team should be doing
Politics can interfere with what a team should be doing
Image Credit:
Robert Couse-Baker

Oh my! Politics has always been a contentious issue, but it sure seems as though in the past few years it has become even more so. In England the Brexit vote and in the U.S. the 2016 presidential election created hard lines between people who normally work side by side. How should an IT manager use their IT manager skills to handle it when this kind of issue creeps into the workplace?

The Challenge That Politics Creates In The Workplace

When there is an issue that comes up for a vote that can divide a workplace, it often comes down to the IT manager to use your IT manager training to play the role of mediator. Worker’s strong feelings about the issues that are up for vote can allow tensions in the workplace to rise. As the day of the big vote gets closer and closer, IT managers will be trying to keep things in the office civil and trying to maintain some semblance of being productive.

When HR professionals were surveyed prior to the 2016 election, what they reported was that they had detected an increase in hostility in their workplace. This was up sharply from the last time that they had been surveyed. As bad as things had gotten, the HR professionals were hopeful that once the elections were over, things would return to normal in the workplace.

One thing that a lot of companies consider whenever there is a “hot button” issue that is on everyone’s mind is banning any discussion of that topic at work. The thinking is that if there is a discussion, then it’s just going to lead to an argument and then things might get out of hand. However, there is a downside to this approach. The National Labor Relations Board has made it very clear that discussions of some public policy issues such as wages and working conditions is protected speech.

What An IT Manager Can Do

One of the big reasons why this round of voting seems to have caused such a big issue in our workplace has to do with some of the issues that have come up. Topics that have been raised affect a number of racial, religious and ethnic groups. This can result in members of your team feeling discriminated against or even bullied when workplace discussions about the vote come up.

As IT managers one of the things that we need to realize whenever these charged political times come around is that our team’s productivity is probably going to take a hit. The team’s discussions about the latest campaign twists will end up taking up time that could otherwise be spent working on work tasks. A question that you are going to have to answer as an IT manager is how you want to plan your team’s activities around the upcoming vote.

You need to realize that anytime there is a vote, once every vote has been counted roughly half of the people in your office are going to be happy and half are going to be upset. This means you need to decide what you want to do the day after the election. Some firms decide to not hold important meetings on that day and some elect to not launch new products because they feel that everyone will be too distracted.

What All Of This Means For You

As though being an IT manager was not hard enough to do all by itself, it turns out that there are situations that we need to monitor in order to be an effective leader. These include political events where a major vote on some important issue will be coming up. We need to understand the impact that this may have on our team.

When members of your team really care about a vote, this is going to boost the level of tension that exists in your workplace. Hostility may also increase. You may want to simplify your life by banning all election discussions, but you’d be on dangerous ground here and may not be able to do it. If the election brings up sensitive topics, then you are going to have to realize that the team’s productivity is going to take a hit. You may want to hold off on important meetings and company events until the election is over and done with.

If we lived in a perfect world, then the events that happen in politics would stay there and not intrude in the workplace. However, that’s not the world that we live in. Instead, IT managers need to realize that what is going on in the world of politics can enter into our workspace; however, we need to take action and do some IT team building in order to make sure that our teams can continue to be productive.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How should an IT manager deal with face-to-face conflicts that happen in the workplace because of politics?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If I asked you if you had any bias, I’m pretty sure that you’d think for a moment and then say that no, to the best of your knowledge you are basically an unbiased person. This is good news, but unfortunately you are probably incorrect. It turns out that despite all of our IT manager skills we all have some bias in us and it seems to show up when we are conducting our annual evaluation of our IT team. Is there anything that we can do about this?