7 notes on reducing political tension in the workplace, per CDA

Practice owners should establish boundaries and ask patients and staff to leave political discussions at the door, according to the California Dental Association.

The Dentists Insurance Company's risk management advice line frequently receives calls from dentists uncertain how to handle uneasy political exchanges. TDIC recommends using language such as: "Teammates get upset when discussions on the job delve into political or religious topics because everyone, while entitled to their opinion, can have very strong and differing points of view. That is why our office has established a policy regarding professional conduct in our practice. I am asking all of you to curtail any further discussion of politics or religious beliefs while at work to avoid making others uncomfortable or pressured to discuss topics that are not appropriate in the office."

Three things to know:

  • Employees of private businesses don't have the right to express racist, sexist or other discriminatory comments.
  • Political affiliation is not a protected class under federal law, but state political discrimination laws vary.
  • A hostile work environment is defined as "unwelcome or offensive behavior in the workplace, which causes one or more employees to feel uncomfortable, scared or intimidated in their place of employment."

Four expectations to establish, clarify:

  • Consider creating a formal "politically neutral workplace" policy.
  • Empathize with employees, but be consistent in responses/reactions.
  • Understand state laws relating to politics in the workplace.
  • Document and clearly state office policies, and intervene quickly and decisively if discussions become heated.

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