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How to keep the peace during times of political turmoil

It was a simple game of “Would you rather?” to start a meeting at Broadcat. I thought the answer to my question “Would you rather have the ability to fly or to be invisible?” was a slam dunk, because …

❗Wait—before you read further, how would you answer that question? Ready? OK, read on! ❗

… “who would not want to have the ability to fly?” I thought. 

I mostly asked the question to hear about all the cool places everyone would fly to … and maybe to check flight deals later. 🧳 To my complete surprise, about half of my fellow Broadcats preferred invisibility over flight! We all listened to one another’s rationale. No minds were changed, but the conversation was respectful, and we all learned just a little bit more about each other.

No matter where you live in the world, you can’t escape differences like these—and that includes politics. Only those differences can be a lot more divisive than the flying v. invisibility debate. And when politics are front-and-center of the news cycle, you have a recipe for arguments, tension, and infighting, oh my! 

giphy-May-30-2024-11-51-57-5377-PMSource: MGM’s Wizard of Oz

This simple game of “Would you rather” inspired me to share some ideas of how you help keep the peace at your organization during times of political tension.

Communicating expectations on a frequent basis using different channels is the key to effecting behavior.

Those continued reminders will sink in after repeated exposure. Here’s an example of what I mean with Broadcat materials. Use:

  1. this great video on politics in the workplace that you can post on internal social or collaboration platforms
  2. an infographic that covers all the bases that can be emailed to everyone
  3. a decision tree on posting about politics on social media that’s perfect for an impactful leader-led discussion
  4. coordinating talking points with job aids for an email reminder
  5. a just-in-time reminder about acceptable use of assets
  6. awareness graphics for digital boards in break rooms and conference rooms where these conversations are likely to occur
  7. newsletters to reinforce the message

And to make it easier for you to kick off this political campaign, I’ve written this blog post that you can cut-and-paste for your own newsletters or other communications. Happy peacekeeping!

Five tips to maintain harmony in and outside of the workplace—and none of them include gag orders. 🙊  

1. Don’t assume

It’s natural to believe that our own position is right, and that others must—or should—share it. I cannot count the number of times people took for granted that I or others had particular beliefs just because we were working together or had other things in common. 🤦 You cannot assume that everyone you meet feels the same way you do. Because of this, don’t use blanket statements (e.g., “anyone who voted that way is a complete idiot!”) because you might be insulting the person you're speaking with.

2. Select the right time, right place

There’s a right time and a right place for sensitive discussions that can provoke tensions. Before you start that conversation, consider where you are and who you are with: 🏢 Does the conversation need to be had? Might it impact your relationship negatively? Can you have it at another time? In another location? What do you expect to get out of the conversation? 

3. Aim for understanding

Do not aim to be right. Instead, aim for understanding. Many people’s beliefs are deeply ingrained, and you aren't going to change them by arguing your position. When you see political arguments from the “other side” on Facebook, how often does that change your position? Never. 🙅 So don’t expect that you are going to sway someone, especially by use of vitriol. 

Instead, when you don’t agree with someone, consider asking questions to understand why they feel the way they do (assuming they want to have this conversation with you in the first place). Understanding someone else, even if it doesn’t change your mind, can help you be a better, more effective communicator—and that’s useful no matter what kind of conversation you’re having.

4. Be respectful

The person who does not agree with you is not your enemy—they just happen to believe differently. Being respectful means not yelling or demeaning them for their beliefs or who they voted for. 🗳️ It also means letting them express what they think in ways that are appropriate to your workplace, and sometimes walking away from a conversation that is escalating.

5. Be real 

Don’t let these tips scare you into not expressing your beliefs at all! It’s important to bring your true, authentic self to the office (and everywhere you go!), and, in fact, being able to be who you are leads to better outcomes. 💫 Just approach political discussions with mindfulness and you’ll be set. 

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