On the heels of the January 6 protests and breach of the U.S. Capitol, Hirschler employment partner Jaime Wisegarver discusses steps employers can take to mitigate risks stemming from political disagreements at work in the January/February 2021 issue of Risk Management.
Incidents in the workplace caused by charged political discourse can negatively affect a business in a number of ways. Beyond the obvious risks of physical violence, heated conversations can impact employee morale, teamwork and productivity. Data from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows that about 10% of working Americans have reported differential treatment on the basis of political affiliation or political affiliation bias.
While preventing charged disagreements in the workplace without stymying free expression can be a difficult balance to strike, Wisegarver offers some steps businesses can take. “The key to preventing those situations from escalating is to ensure that the conversation remains civil,” she said. “There’s no harm in disagreeing, but employers should make it clear that disruptive conversations about any topic will not be tolerated.”
Leadership is key to maintaining a respectful environment and managing such risks. Wisegarver recommends that supervisors and managers be encouraged to lead by example and model respect - appreciating differing viewpoints and not tolerating hurtful or inappropriate comments that violate workplace policies.
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