Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 15 seconds

With the much anticipated Senate impeachment trial underway amid a highly charged presidential campaign that is only likely to grow more heated, companies will have a whole year to contend with political tensions in the workplace.

politics elephant 2798628 1920One potential sign of trouble is that 34% of American say their workplace is "mostly not" or "definitely not" inclusive of different political perspectives, a Society For Human Resource Management “Politics In The Workplace,” survey finds (PDF). That survey of 522 working Americans taken October last year also notes that most firms may be ill-equipped to deal with political tensions in the workplace. Sixty percent have no idea if their company is working to create an environment more inclusive of different political differences. Just 11% say their company is doing this, while 28% say they are not.

The survey also finds that 26% and 30% of respondents say political talk has become much more common or somewhat more common over the last four years, respectively. And nearly 50% of survey respondents have had personal disagreements at work over politics. “Workplace leaders don’t know how to manage this new norm,” SHRM president and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., writes for The Hill. “Some have tried and failed, because they’re ignoring the real problem.”

Taylor cites Google as a prime example of companies getting it wrong when, last year, it banned employees from talking about politics at work. He notes the company likely acted with good intentions, “but employees saw this move as an attempt to muzzle employee activism and suppress political expression.”

“Whether we like it or not, discussions about politics are happening in the workplace,” Taylor writes. “Silencing employees is no solution—and may make matters worse. Working Americans spend about as much time with their colleagues as they do with their family at home. Their true selves are going to show up at work at some point.”

Employers, employees and HR leaders can learn a lot about dysfunctional workplaces by looking at what has transpired with the Trump Administration, Fast Company reports. One approach for employees dealing with a toxic workplace is to keep your cool no matter how tempting it may be to lash back in kind. “When a toxic employee begins to affect others, a first step should be to confront the behavior directly and explore what is truly going on, and then land on a next step,” Stacey Engle, president of training company Fierce Conversations, tells Fast Company.

If the situation does not improve, then it is time to tell your manager or HR. “If the toxicity heads into the territory of putting an individual or an organization in danger—either physically or legally—concerns should be brought to the top of the leadership chain immediately,” Engle says.

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