How to deal with political polarization in the workplace

by Kayla Crum on Mar 28, 2024

It’s no secret that the United States has been stuck in a politically polarized situation for many years. If you’re a leader at work, it’s difficult to know how to deal with the ways these conflicts bubble up among team members.

There are lots of unhealthy tactics we use to deal with difficult conversations, including avoidance, demonization, and aggression.  All of these responses fail to effectively address the core issue and may make things worse. When we allow harmful dynamics to fester among team members, it can prevent them from doing their best work.

Here at Teamalytics, we assist leaders through a three-step process to building an “A-team.” This framework applies to whatever issue your team may be facing, even political discord. If you’re seeing political tension among your team, we recommend following these three steps:

1. Create a team standards contract

It’s tempting to start with bringing people together to hash out touchy subjects, but it’s often best to start with helping people connect relationally, which builds trust and disarms emotions.

At Teamalytics, one of the best tools we offer to help build trust is our Social Contract.  It is a document, but more aptly termed a process.  It is a collaboratively built document that outlines acceptable behaviors.

2. Embrace accountability and frequent feedback

Once your team has created and documented a Team Standard Contract (Social Contract), it might feel like your work is done.

However, unless you want the team to slip back into old patterns, a path must be marked out for ongoing feedback and accountability.  Have a Team Standards check-in at the beginning of team meetings, and sat the end have a quick reflection on how the team did.  Also, consider quarterly meetings in which you revisit the contract more formally.

Allowing the group to become self-managed is the key.  Leaders can set rules and step into conflict, but in the ideal world, the team works out issues on its own. Holding each other accountable with varied perspectives in the room, the likelihood of one view steamrolling another goes down.

3. Do something together

Start to think proactively about how to unify your team, rather than reactively about how to fix conflict. Volunteer or donate money together as a group to a cause that everyone can get on board with. Name shared values as a team and focus on what unifies, not divides.

If you know your team could benefit from the above approach, download our free guide, “Building A-Teams: Balancing Results and Relationships for Long-Term Success” today. We’ve distilled thirty years of experience working with leaders and teams in conflict into a six-page guide for you to reference as you navigate the complexities of leading a team in today’s polarized world.