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View from the Top: Do Politics Have a Place in the Office?

Project Assistants CEO Gus Cicala provide his view of what is going on in the business world and what it might mean for your organization.

Political talk in the workplace is dangerous but critical. Benjamin Franklin said, “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority,” and I take that duty seriously. We are citizens first and employees/employers second. A divided country needs its forums in everyday life to talk through our differences.

At the same time, I am keenly aware of the risks inherent in welcoming discussion of contentious issues among colleagues. As a CEO, I have to be especially aware of the power dynamic at play. If the boss is going to make it a point that they like Bernie, it’s their responsibility to make sure no one feels uncomfortable feeling otherwise. Self-deprecation goes a long way in this respect.

It can be a conflict of interest, and the best way to remove that is to remove the “interest.” You achieve this by creating an open, non-threatening environment. You have to make it clear you are not judging (positively or negatively, personally or professionally) on the basis of their beliefs. It also means jokes are ways to lighten the room, not excuses to laugh down anyone who doesn’t follow a perceived company line. Most importantly, everyone needs to feel safe to speak up when they feel like someone has crossed the line.

It’s corporate culture to shirk from risks, especially when there’s no profit incentive to pursue the reward. But I believe this issue is too important to ignore.