5 Ways To Help Your Work Relationships Thrive Despite Conflicting Political Views

By Kathy Caprino | Mar 19, 2021
Career | ACHNET

Last week, the U.S. experienced a horrific first in its history—an attack on the nation’s capitol, and both friends and foes of our country looked on in horror. The aftermath of the attack has brought dramatic action and powerful repercussions, including federal charges against perpetrators, resignations of the Capitol Police Chief and senior administration officials including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and others, official bans of the President’s social media accounts, a calling for the President to be removed via the 25th amendment or impeachment, and more.

While there is so much uncertainty and turmoil in these times, I believe one thing is crystal clear that we’d all agree on–that many millions of U.S. citizens have very conflicting views about what is transpiring in our country, what it means for our nation’s future, and what actions would be best to bring about a stabler, better country for the majority of people who live here.

The consequences of this type of divisiveness in our country and in our workplaces cannot be overestimated. For people to work together, collaborate productively, sit on diverse teams, focus on key projects as a group, and feel safe in the organization they work for, it’s essential that hatred, division and rage between people who are in different ideological “bunkers” need to be addressed and successfully mitigated. And we need to commit to work behaviors and communication approaches that forge bonds, not destroy them.

But how can we—as individuals, leaders or managers—help quell the rage and division that exists today and bring people who have very different perspectives together so they can work in unity and harmony with each other?

Interestingly, Comparably recently conducted a poll that asked its users, “Do the political views of your co-workers affect your working relationship with them?”

The published results of the study are here. As of December 13th, the data reflected responses from 17,803 employees from a variety of departments, locations, and demographics in the U.S. who were surveyed over the past two years. They provide the infographics in real-time on the site with a transparent breakdown of how different demographics answered the question, from gender, ethnicity and age, to education, department, and location.

Jaime Sarachit, Comparably’s Head of Communications, shared with me that Comparably is a workplace culture and compensation site and employees come onto the site organically to research salary data, rate their employers, and answer a variety of 100 workplace culture questions such as this one.

A key finding of the study is this: 77 percent of men and 75 percent of women reported that political views do not impact their work relationships. That’s a remarkable finding, and one that many of us would say is quite surprising or even hard to believe, based on what we’re seeing in our own lives. From my years as a market research director in my corporate career and in my research projects today, I’ve seen that self-reported responses can often reveal what we internally “wish” the answer to be or even what we would “hope” our behavior reveals, rather than what is truly the case.

What most of the professional colleagues and clients I speak with would say they do believe in is the idea that people of all walks of life can take concrete action to help overcome their differences with others at work, and we have it within our capabilities to forge strong and productive working relationships with people despite our differences in perspectives and political views.

I have found there are 5 key strategies that help us ensure that our work relationships can thrive, even when we don’t politically agree.

These 5 strategies are:

Remember that people are more than their politics

I have close family members and friends who possess extremely different views than I about the events of recent years and our political situation today. But these people are very important to me, and I love and care for them and their wellbeing. As hard as it can be sometimes to remember this fact, people are more than their political views.

When you’re with someone who has very different political viewpoints, bring to mind all that you enjoy and appreciate about them. Remember the good times you’ve had with them, the kindness and generosity they’ve shown, the great conversations, the laughs and fascinating conversations, their wonderful contributions and talents at work, and more. Hold tight to the idea that you can care for someone deeply who, at the same time, sees the world very differently.

Recognize that all behavior and mindsets are understandable when you understand their context

One very powerful concept I learned in my training as a marriage and family therapist is that all behavior can be understood when you understand how it was formed and where it was derived from—the influences that