NCET Biz Tips: Overcoming political strife in the workplace

The state of political discourse has gotten so extreme that family members aren’t talking to each other, friends have become estranged, and, in the workplace, there has been a loss of collegiality and community. Disdain between employees continues to grow in an environment of binary sides where you are either right or wrong. While no one is immune from the rhetoric and vitriol heard on social and traditional media, there is a way that businesses can rise above the petty attacks and demonstrate a united sense of community for their employees and demand appropriate discourse from public figures.

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously – Employers can set the tone by laughing at oneself, allowing your team to laugh as well, and creating opportunities for silly interactions. Of course, all playful fun must be respectful and inclusive – a team never wants to risk isolating someone in the quest for humor. Using oneself as the playful example allows for a more lighthearted and easy discourse when talking policy and politics.
  • Humanize all members of the team – Getting to know each other as employees and understanding people’s story – their backgrounds filled with both successes and struggles – opens the door for colleagues to connect, empathize and start caring for each other.
  • Establish a common mission – All employees need a joint goal to work toward, which requires creating a business culture around a purpose. Remember the economy – as the highest approval rated issue – businesses can use their micro-economy to unify their employees, advocating for a better financial environment that reaps value to all employees.
  • Be intentionally bi-partisan – Often times business leaders get trapped in thinking that members of one party can only embody all of their collective and complex views. This type of rigidity creates binary sides amongst employees. Instead, setting an example of supporting people, regardless of party, who work to make your business better, stronger, and more profitable. Create a culture of bi-partisan support.
  • Admit we are wrong – The best leader is the one able to acknowledge when they made an error. In business, this allows for a pivot and recalculation and helps the company grow. In politics, this helps people talk and problem solve together. As a leader, admitting that perhaps the policy, idea, or person you once supported, perhaps wasn’t the right way at accomplishing the goals that better the business is a huge step at creating an atmosphere of acceptance and bi-partisanship. Recognizing that everyone has good ideas, perhaps some are tougher to accomplish, but at the end of the day, admitting when we are wrong is the best way to draw people together.

As a former elected official, who saw the divides of partisanship deepen each year, and someone who works in politics daily for my firm TriStrategies, becoming bi-partisan has resulted in developing more friendships, allowed the work we do to become more successful, and allowed me to see value and collaboration in each policy and politician I meet. Fostering a culture of bi-partisanship for your business will allow you and your team to grow in both relationships and in profitability.

Eddie Ableser Ph.D., is the CEO of TriStrategies, tristrat.com, a mountain west states policy and government relations firm. He spent a decade as an elected-official in the Arizona Legislature before moving to Nevada to lead various divisions in education and health under former Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval.

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