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How to keep political divisions from harming employee engagement 

Divisions are common in workplaces, but Michael Lee Stallard says cultivating a culture of connection can boost employee engagement.

4 min read


employee engagement

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It’s no secret that political division is on the rise, and an impending presidential election will only draw attention to the rifts between the sides. Political division has seeped into every facet of our lives, including the workplace, making this issue one that leaders need to be aware of and proactively manage.

At the same time, we are facing unprecedented low levels of employee engagement. The latest Gallup poll paints a sobering picture, showing the lowest employee engagement levels recorded in a decade. This trend, if left unaddressed, can have dire consequences for organizational productivity and morale. 

In light of these dual challenges of division and low engagement, it is evident that we, as leaders, need to reassess how we manage our teams and cultivate workplace cultures. It is imperative to train leaders and managers on how to foster cultures of connection. This shift can transform workplaces into environments where employees are motivated to connect, collaborate and cooperate, rather than getting entangled in divisive political disputes.

The impact of political division on the workplace

Heated political discussions can create rifts among colleagues, reducing trust and cooperation. When employees are divided, they are less likely to work effectively together, which can lead to decreased productivity and a toxic work environment. Moreover, the stress and frustration caused by these conflicts can contribute to disengagement and burnout.

Employee engagement: A growing concern

Gallup’s recent findings reveal a disturbing trend: employee engagement is at its lowest in a decade. Engaged employees are enthusiastic about their work and committed to their organization. They contribute to the organization’s success by driving innovation and improving customer satisfaction. Conversely, disengaged employees are disconnected from their work and more likely to leave their jobs, increasing turnover costs and disrupting team dynamics.

The role of leaders in cultivating connection

Leaders and managers play a crucial role in shaping workplace culture. By fostering a culture of connection, they can counteract the negative effects of political division and disengagement. A connected culture is one where employees feel valued, understood and part of a cohesive team. This sense of belonging and purpose can significantly enhance employee engagement and productivity. 

Training leaders to build connected cultures this election cycle

 Leaders and managers need the right skills and tools to cultivate a culture of connection during this election cycle. Training programs should focus on:

  1. Empathy and emotional intelligence: Leaders must learn to understand and manage their own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the feelings of others. This helps in creating a supportive environment where employees feel heard and valued — something that is important all the time, particularly during seasons of political conflict.
  2. Communication skills: Effective communication is critical to building trust and understanding among team members. Leaders should learn how to facilitate open and respectful dialogues, especially when addressing sensitive topics like politics.
  3. Conflict resolution: Leaders need strategies to manage and resolve conflicts constructively. This includes recognizing potential conflicts early, addressing them promptly and finding solutions that respect diverse perspectives.
  4. Team building: Activities and practices that promote teamwork and collaboration can help strengthen relationships among employees. Leaders should foster opportunities for team members to connect on a personal level beyond their professional roles. This helps to create common ground that unites the team in spite of political differences. 
  5. Inclusive leadership: Helping people connect despite their differences can help mitigate the effects of political division. Leaders need to know how to create an inclusive environment where all employees feel respected and valued, regardless of their political beliefs.

The benefits of a connected workplace

When leaders successfully cultivate a culture of connection, the benefits are manifold. Employees who feel connected are more likely to be engaged, motivated and committed to their work. They are also more likely to collaborate effectively, leading to increased innovation and problem-solving capabilities. Furthermore, a connected workplace can improve employee well-being, reducing stress and burnout. This sense of connection can mitigate the harmful effects of political tension that might arise during this season. 

The combination of rising political division and declining employee engagement levels presents a significant challenge for organizations. However, by training leaders and managers to cultivate cultures of connection, we can create workplaces where employees thrive despite their differences. This not only enhances individual and team performance but also contributes to a more harmonious and productive organizational culture. It is time for leaders to take proactive steps in building connected cultures that transcend political differences and foster a more engaged, collaborative and cooperative workforce.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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