While 2020 has provided ample reasons for tensions to run high within dental practices, many may feel like the presidential election has added a heightened level of anxiety and potential for conflict. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, of 522 working Americans surveyed in 2019, almost half personally experienced a political disagreement at work.
Between other team members and patients who have differing views, how can we reduce political conflict and stress within the workplace?
Respect that others have a right to not agree with you
Personal experiences, news platforms, and other informational sources that we utilize help to shape our views. While it’s tempting to want to educate others on why they are wrong about a particular topic that you may feel passionately about, it’s important to consider if doing so may damage your relationship and add more stress to your environment. What will arguing accomplish? Do you truly believe that you will change his or her mind by being forceful with your opinion? Chances are high that the answer is No.
Some things are better left unsaid
If you are put on the spot to share your political beliefs, you can respectfully decline to answer. Practice a standard response, such as, “I appreciate you asking but I prefer to keep that private.”
It is wise for owners and managers to set healthy boundaries for their team. While staff members have every right to their own views and opinions, providing policies on how they are expressed within the workplace avoids feelings of harassment.
Know when to walk away
If you begin to feel a physical reaction to a discussion, like a racing heart or sweaty palms, recognize that you are entering the “fight-or-flight” response. Try to end the conversation as politely as possible. Openly recognize that you have a difference of opinion but you prefer to focus on work-related subjects rather than debate. If your coworker or patient cannot accept a polite end to the conversation, document the experience and bring it to the attention of your owner or practice manager.
It is also important to be aware if your words or actions are eliciting the fight-or-flight response in someone else. Be observant of their reactions and alter your behavior to avoid making others feel uncomfortable. Recognize that we all deserve to feel safe within the workplace.
How we spend time outside of work affects our ability to handle stressful situations. Are you spending your free time focusing on the political tension or surrounding yourself with people who do? Take an inventory of your daily routines and reevaluate how your habits are serving both your physical and emotional health and wellness.
In the end, we cannot control what others believe or value. We can only control ourselves. Avoiding heated political discussions in the workplace is important to maintaining a positive and productive environment.