Politics still roiling the workplace? Here are tips to keep the post-election peace

David O'Connor//November 15, 2016

Politics still roiling the workplace? Here are tips to keep the post-election peace

David O'Connor//November 15, 2016

The presidential election did not end the split. So even though it is over, now might still be a good time for business owners to remind employees of their firm’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, one Central Pennsylvania human-resources consultant recommends.

In the wake of national incidents following last week’s election – including allegations of racially-motivated incidents last week at York County School of Technology – and with heated debates raging in workplaces over the presidential election, Craig Porterfield said workers may need to be reminded of two basic rules of business:

  • Companies don’t allow discriminatory behavior against others at work.
  • Getting the work done must come before winning any political arguments with the person in the next cubicle.

“In my professional opinion, you cannot let this stuff fester, especially with something like this (the election), because there’s such strong sentiment on both sides,” Porterfield, CEO of York-based Paraclete Partners LLC, said Monday.

Employees may need to hear clearly from managers that “you’re entitled to your opinion, but by expressing your opinion in a way that threatens or harasses someone else, you’re affecting our business, and I can’t allow that to happen.”

Porterfield, a long-time HR professional who now advises hundreds of small-to-midsized companies on HR-related issues, has not gotten any calls from clients asking how they might handle workplace harassment problems since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in last week’s election.

If he had, Porterfield would have encouraged officials with the company to treat them “the same way you would treat any other diversity issue.

“You say, ‘We believe in diversity here, and because of that, we are open to other people’s opinions, whether we agree or disagree with them, and as long as the voicing of those opinions and the reaction doesn’t affect workplace operations, and we’re not discriminating against somebody, it’s OK.”

But if you cross those lines, or if political arguments are slowing down the job of getting work done, they must then cease during work time, he emphasized.

In the York County incident, a video circulated on Facebook showing students at the York Township school carrying a Trump sign, whilesomeone is heard saying, “White Power,” according to press reports. Three students have been disciplined, a school official said in the reports.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement following the York incident, saying that “no child should feel unsafe in his or her school, and I will continue to provide any resources necessary to stop this type of behavior from happening.”