Things got heated in many American offices this year, thanks to the presidential elections. Emotions ran high between Democrats and Republicans. But now that Barack Obama had been re-elected as President of the United States, that doesn’t mean that the debates are over.  Between now and Inauguration Day, and even beyond politics can still cause workplace dissent.

So what should you do at your own company or organization? Well, you have several options on how to handle politics at work. Some companies have a no-politics policy, because the topic can be so disruptive at the office.  It really can be a minefield. Think about the possible bad situations that can arise if talking about politics at work is allowed:

  • A lower-level staffer who supported one candidate may be worried about retaliation from her boss, who was a campaign donor for the other candidate.
  • Employees who are heard talking about their political views, or wear some sort of politically-themed buttons or jewelry, could end up offending customers.
  • Two staffers who have to work closely together may not be able to get along anymore because of their differing political views.
  • Somebody at work whose political opinions are in the minority could feel intimidated by the majority.
  • A newspaper reporter could see her objectivity called into question if the public finds out her political views.
  • Managers could feel pressure to support a politician if it happens to be a person their company’s leadership is supporting with money and time.
  • Some people don’t care at all about politics, and may be annoyed at hearing any side in political discussions.
  • What is seen as a healthy political discussion could easily turn into a workplace squabble, just like talking about other heated topics can do.
  • Some staffers could think that campaigning for their candidates at work is okay.
  • A few CEOS were in the news recently for threatening their staff with job cuts if the candidate that the CEO supported didn’t win, something that could be seen as an intimidating action.

On the other hand, we are in the United States, where people have the freedom to think what they want, and vote how they want, and banning politics from the workplace can seem to be against that sort of freedom. Who you vote for is part of who you are, and it may seem like something Orwellian to not be able to say at your workplace who you support for president and other political offices.

So should you have a no-politics policy? It depends upon your individual workplace – after all, it would be silly to have a no-politics rule if you were working with political campaigns or legislatures or are employed by a union.

Or perhaps you have a small office where people get along and respect each other, despite differing political views, so it is not a problem. Or maybe you all really do agree on politics, so there is no issue.

But in many cases, politics is too divisive a subject to be discussed in the workplace.  You may need to establish some sort of policy, whether it be to allow such discussions only on personal time, prevent employees from showing their political views in front of customers,  or ban the subject altogether in the office.

No matter what you decide, you should have some sort of policy guiding your staff on the subject.  Just because the 2012 election is over doesn’t mean that the subject of politics – and who people support — has calmed down.