I am having trouble wrangling my team. I have a bunch of obnoxious Trump supporters who have an unerring ability to work their politics into everything. The only ones worse are the Bernie Bots who are so against the system I expect them to come to work with pitchforks. This election cycle has created toxicity at work. What should I do? P.L., Brooklyn, NY
Odd that you have no bad behavior from Clinton supporters…perhaps she is your candidate? I only bring this thought up to bring your awareness to bear on the fact that we all have our own lenses. If you were a Trump supporter, you probably would not brand their actions as “obnoxious.” That said, unless you are in a political consulting business, you are right that these types of conversations can be a distraction.
It used to be that politics, religion, and sex were topics that were never discussed at work, and some still follow that advice. However, you can’t force people do so. Since this is affecting the team, I would start the next meeting by stating what you’ve observed (using neutral, non-polarizing language), how it is affecting the work (inefficiency, hard feelings, etc.), and that you understand it’s driven by the tone of the media coverage we’re all exposed to. Then state what you want to see moving forward, e.g., no political talk during meetings, period. Agree to a phrase that everyone can use if someone forgets—for example, “Now is not the time.” You want a phrase everyone agrees to so that it’s just a reminder, not a judgment. After they’ve agreed to the rules of the road, help them remember what they like about each other, something like, “I’m glad we’re going to do this because we’ve always been such a good, respectful team and we’ll be working together long after November has come and gone.”
On a separate note, it’s likely your staffers will continue to have political discussions outside of group meetings, which, unless they affect the work, is OK. Do not engage on any level in any political discussion. You don’t want to get sucked into any type of discourse with staffers that could come back to haunt you or potentially cause a legal issue.
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