I don't do politics!
However, our newsletters are based on what’s going on in the world around us on a weekly basis, and, at the moment, that has to include the politics. However, there is still a very strong HR issue here which all business owners need to be incredibly aware of over the next six weeks or so.
Unless you have had your head buried in the sand, you will know that a general election has been called for Thursday 12th December.
There is going to be a lot of debate over the next six weeks about whether to vote for Labour and face a future referendum; whether to vote Conservative and if so, will this mean out; or whether the LibDems, with their policy of cancelling Brexit altogether will be the party of power.
As a business owner, as an employer and as a manager, you need to remember that you have a duty of care towards all of your employees. You need to ensure that no matter where the debate goes, it doesn’t result in some of your staff feeling ostracised, bullied or harassed. You have a duty to ensure differences in opinion don’t result in major disagreements, arguments or fights in the workplace, and that they don’t result in a dysfunctional workforce.
I would suggest very strongly that you set the rules early on. It is not for you as an employer to tell your staff how to vote. Whether you are unionised, whether you’re a large employer or a small one, whether the policies of one party or another are going to directly impact your business, it is not up to you to force your opinion on your employees, suppliers or customers. Putting any pressure on your workforce can be incredibly detrimental for you and for your business.
One of the safest options may be to ban all conversation about the election in the office. Therefore, nobody can feel that their opinion is being belittled, you’re not going to end up in massive arguments. However, it’s very hard to tell people what they can and can’t talk about in a society where we do have the right to freedom of speech. One phrase that I learned many, many years ago has always stood me in good stead, “Do not be disagreeable in your disagreement.”
There are always going to be disagreements. There are disagreements within families and amongst friends. Politics is always, always going to divide and it’s more divisive now than ever before. The rhetoric and the abuse that is being hurled at supporters of one side or another, and at the politicians of one side or another, is beyond vile.
As an employer, you have a duty of care to create a safe and healthy, physical and mental workplace.
It’s really important that you set the bar, that you set the tone, that you make sure that your staff are not subjecting each other to bullying or harassment on the basis of their political allegiances and beliefs.
Whatever the politics, encourage people to go and vote. If people want to have their say, encourage them to do it through the democratic process at the ballot box. Another saying which I often use is “Don’t be upset with the result you got if you don’t use the vote you have.”
You need to ensure that your workplace doesn’t become a highly charged, highly political, difficult, hostile place to be.