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Patriotism And Nationalism In The Workplace: How To Not Let 'Camps' Affect Productivity

I don't like the showy nationalism - a tattoo, wrapping yourself in a flag... The way to show your patriotism and commitment is to go and support or play for your team.
- Gary Speed

While every opinion should be respected and everyone should be free to their own beliefs, thanks to the pervasiveness of social media, having an opinion is now fashionable and sharing it is incredibly simple.

Patriotism and nationalism are no longer restricted to a few, select groups and the media - they have breached the sanctity of our homes, and yes, our workplaces too.

In addition to the workplace politics that plagues most organisations, dealing with ‘camps’ divided over their political opinions, or nationalist tendencies can be quite a task. They can also have a devastating impact on the overall productivity of the employees, given how differences in opinion can sometimes lead to negative consequences.

Political Discussion in Office

Consequences Of 'Camps' Owing To Political Beliefs In The Workplace

Here’s what could happen if excessive displays of patriotism and nationalism in the workplace goes unchecked.

1. Divisiveness

Whether the politics originate in the public sphere or between individuals within the office, they can result in a lack of harmony and cooperation in the workplace. Ideally, individuals can separate their political opinions from their work lives, but in the real world some people are unable to do this and they let differing opinions get in the way of effective workplace behaviour. The result can be employees who don't work well together simply because they hold incompatible political viewpoints.

2. Distraction

Passionate discussions on political issues can distract employees from the tasks that they should ideally be focusing on. ‘One-upmanship’ is a common phenomenon when it comes to workplace politics, and differences in political opinions could only lead to more problems, especially in instances where teamwork is crucial. It is easy for an individual, who takes nationalism very seriously, to get distracted from his/her duties at the workplace and pursue fruitless arguments with fellow co-workers.

3. Feuds

In the worst-case scenario, political discussions could grow into ongoing differences of opinion between two groups, something that can result in disruptive feuds that split a workplace into opposing camps. It is important for managers to keep an eye and try to nip the problem in the bud. If ongoing feuds are allowed to develop over a long period of time, the result can be compromised productivity in the workplace, hurting everyone equally, no matter what their political positions.

4. Disciplinary Action

The consequences for someone who disruptively discusses politics at work can include rebukes by management and, in extreme cases, termination. Political issues can grow into a complex series of accusations and counter-accusations as employees make claims of free speech and managers respond with charges of poor performance and lack of conscientious work. It may appear that a worker is being persecuted for his political opinions, when in fact the discipline is because he was simply not doing his job.

While it is impossible to completely ban excessive displays of patriotism and nationalism at the workplace, it is fundamental to not let them negatively affect the overall productivity of the workplace. In order to do so effectively, it is necessary to deal with it in a constructive manner. Here are some ways HR managers can keep the peace, and the productivity intact.

How Not To Let Patriotism And Nationalism Affect Productivity

Here are some ways you can control the impact of differing political opinions at work without curtailing the employees’ right to expression.

1. Encourage Healthy Discussions While Avoiding Party Politics

It’s easy to simply support a particular camp, sometimes even without an understanding of issues at hand. Have employees, instead, discuss big-picture concepts, specific measures taken by the political parties, or general concerns plaguing the country.

Encourage them to talk about how they would be affected by changes in order to help explain why they are concerned about specifics. By keeping the focus on the details, employees can have constructive, educational conversations that help others (even those with opposing views) see their side. This can also help employees develop a keener intellect by looking at both sides of a coin, and apply the same to their work.

2. Remind Employees To Be Respectful

Political views are an extremely personal matter. Everyone has reasons to believe what they do, and there is no standardized solution. Ensure that employees are sincere in their interest for another person’s views, and have them truly consider why another person may feel the way they do on a certain topic.

By taking a humanized approach, your employees can respectfully share opinions with each other without getting nasty. The key is to encourage healthy debates, and not let it spiral into senseless bickering. Practising these discussions may even help them in other work conversations and dealing with difficult situations in the future!

3. Make Sure They're Aware Of When To Stop

Most importantly, make sure your employees know when to end the conversation. If they begin to get social cues during a discussion that the other person is feeling uncomfortable, it's time for them to divert the discussion. They can let the other person know that they respect their point of view and appreciate the conversation, then move on.

There’s no use in having a conflict over an attempt to influence another person's political views. Additionally, this is also necessary to set limits to the time employees can allow to activities not related to work. They need to be reminded that the workplace should essentially be a neutral ground and that they are here to earn their livelihoods and not waste time over issues they cannot entirely control.

4. Remember Your Position

Employees and leaders alike have a difficult decision to make when discussing politics at work. While leaders play a critical role in setting the tone for what is acceptable in each environment, employees often follow their lead. Some leaders choose to take a firm stance of not discussing politics with anyone. Others take the stance of being open and true to themselves. It is advisable that employees and leaders decide whom they want to share their views with, based on each individual interaction.

If you wouldn't share the details of your personal life with someone, it is best not to talk about your political views with them either. More importantly, it is necessary to establish that the organisation’s culture and goals are above everything else and that anybody found disrespecting this would face dire consequences.

5. Be Wary Of The Risks

One of the reasons leaders and employees should ideally stay away from discussing politics at the workplace, is because these discussions can open companies up to potential risk. If an employee has a heated political discussion with a manager, then is released due to an unrelated issue, the employee could end up believing that his/her differing political views were the ultimate cause of the termination. Again, this is where using your best judgment as to what personal opinions you share with whom and when comes into play.

One way to ensure that differences in opinion over ideals like patriotism and nationalism don’t hamper productivity is to create an environment that fosters harmony and team spirit.

It is important to ensure that the drop in productivity is not related to more serious underlying issues like lack of recognition for efforts.

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