What's too Political for the Workplace?
From a presidential election around the corner, a health and racism pandemic to wildfires, the boundaries between work and life are starting to disappear. This new reality has encouraged many to question: What's too political for the workplace?
I never had the opportunity to explore this question fully, until recently, but I know I have experienced it. In 2016, I spent an entire week crying at work after I read the news that Alton Sterling, another Black man, had been killed by the police. My managers didn't speak to me about it. I do appreciate the person that was just a year or two ahead of me that took me on a walk to talk about how I was feeling. My employer's ignorance of what was going on in our communities started to disengage me, and what was supposed to be a thriving career in business became a corporate stint.
There is an unwritten office rule that you don't talk about politics at work. Never. Ever. Social media and platforms like LinkedIn are providing a way around the practice, as we aimlessly search for a space to share our experiences and viewpoints. Because, what is politics if not personal?
Politics is not about being a Republican or a Democrat. Politics is my hair. Politics is my fashion. Politics is my race or ethnicity. Politics is my gender. Politics is my religion. Politics is my financial status. Politics is my healthcare. Politics is my education. The list goes on and on, but when in doubt, go to Wikipedia:
Politics (from Greek: Πολιτικά, politiká, 'affairs of the cities') is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. ... Politics is a multifaceted word.
Politics is about power and privilege and lack thereof. When we choose to shut down "political" conversations, because it is not the place or time, we are shutting down the opportunity for talent to practice and develop critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and creativity. We are taking away someone's right to own their story and narrative.
If we care about being anti-racist and pushing diversity, equity, and inclusion to the forefront, we need to make these tough conversations the new office rule, not a taboo. For Gen-Z's coming into the workplace, this culture shift is not even an option. Nearly 90% of young Americans who responded to a poll said that they support Black Lives Matter, an organization that fights against systemic racism and police brutality against Black Americans (Business Insider). Gen-Zs care about racial equity, the environment, and the ins and out of the American and global experience in its true diverse form.
As we prepare for a presidential election and the end of 2020, we must empower each other to speak critically about the issues that we care about, learn and unlearn the societal systems that we were born in, and show empathy for one another.