Congratulations! Your recruiting process has gone smoothly. You posted your job to the right job boards, received a number of great applications, ran some job interviews, and your entire team agrees on the perfect person to hire. All you need to do now is the standard reference checks and a quick social media search of Twitter and Facebook. But wait… your new hire has some strong political views and has no problem being extremely vocal about them online. Should this be a red flag? If you hire this person, are they going to bring conflict into your office? What do you do?
First, there are serious legal and ethical issues around discriminating against a job applicant because of their personal beliefs. It’s also bad business to drop a potentially star employee because of their politics, so let’s put that entire option aside.
Should There Be a Concern About Politics in the Workplace?
Before we go any further, let’s answer this question. Should you even care that you’re hiring somebody who clearly likes to talk politics? Depending on your company’s culture, political discussions may be welcome, but for the most part, professionals agree that work is not the place to discuss these matters. Debates can seriously hurt employee morale and depending on the topic, political comments can be offensive, leading to potential legal issues for your company as you failed to provide a safe work environment.
So What Do You Do About Your New Hire?
As already mentioned, legally, there is nothing you can do about an employee’s political views and you’re safest not to even mention it. You can, however, try a few of these steps, and point out any policies to your new hire in the early stages of onboarding:
Create a policy about political discussions.
Maybe you’ll want to ban politics all together from your office. Whether it’s verbal, electronic, or visual, politics would not be welcome within your organization. This would require you to define exactly what a “political topic” is.
Build it into your culture.
People may not react well to policies where they’re told what they can and cannot talk about. You may even hear arguments for freedom of speech. Instead, engrain it into your culture that generally, these discussions don’t happen. It would need to start top-down with management who would not only refrain from the subjects, but also end them quickly should they hear them.
Remember your harassment policy.
Even if you decide that small political discussions won’t do any harm, keep in mind that an employee engaging their co-workers in debates against their will or bringing up controversial and uncomfortable topics can be considered harassment. Again, this may create legal headaches.
Suggest social media etiquette.
If you easily learned about your applicant’s strong beliefs through a little Facebook stalking, so will their co-workers. It may be a good time to suggest to your team that they keep their social networks secure and maintain professionalism by not connecting with each other on the personal networks.
Respond promptly to complaints.
Like any other policy, if you’ve set standards, remember to enforce them and respond quickly when they are not followed.
Finding the perfect fit to join your team is not an easy task. Dealing with conflict within your office is also a challenge that no manager enjoys. Help minimize anger and maximize productivity by setting strict guidelines about political discussions in the workplace, and possibly banning them all together.