I think my team focuses on politics too much. Help!

I think my team focuses on politics too much. Help!

I’m a manager and I completely disagree with the politics of my team. I think it’s getting out of hand and it’s starting to be the only topic that anyone speaks about. I’m hesitant to discuss politics because they all know that I have fundamental disagreements with their point of view. How should I handle it? B.N., Nutley, NJ

Before taking action you need to be clear on why you’re doing so. Are these political discussions having a negative impact on the team’s deliverables and morale? Or is it a personal issue for you? Create a list for yourself that details the impact you’ve seen and include examples. If there are negative work consequences, you need to take action.

If the entire team is absorbed in the political process, in one of your normal team meetings tell them of your conclusions when you did your due diligence. Share your list and examples of how the discourse has negatively impacted deliverables and make the case for dialing it down. Tone and approach are critical. You should be objective, neutral, and focused on the practical impact. Don’t make it a big deal at this point or you’ll end up escalating the situation.

Challenge them to redirect all that political passion to the task at hand. Since a busy staff is a happier staff, keep the workflow steady and focus energies on a new project or client.

If you’ve identified a staffer who can’t stop watching the newsfeed lest he or she “miss” something, and then stirs up the political pot by trying to engage others, speak privately with him/her. Help them understand that while staying connected is not necessarily bad, it means he or she is not paying attention to what has direct and immediate relevance to their work. This type of ongoing political information is a distraction for both them and their teammates. Make it clear you’re not trying to totally shut down their conversations, you’re asking for discretion.

Be aware of the implications of sharing your personal views. It’s likely you’ll always be managing people with views contrary to your own. By not engaging in polarizing topics, you’ll reduce misunderstandings regarding your actions and prevent people from asking things like, “Are you playing favorites?”

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