You have seen the big uptick in hate crimes locally and nationally. Perhaps you have read articles about the impact of political divisions on work activities. I remember when I was a kid that racial and religious slurs were common language – and cringe every time I hear someone decry political correctness when what they mean is freedom to say such things again. The SHRM magazine even has a cover this month on “The Age of Rage.”

Are you seeing evidence of employees arguing more or ignoring each other instead? Have you had any incidents of harassment or discrimination in your workplace? Have you felt a need to address these issues but wondered how to do so?  Are you just hoping to avoid this topic?

First, the laws have not changed. If you are covered by EEO laws because you have 15 or more employees, you may wish to remind all employees of the harassment and discrimination rules as a part of an employee newsletter or meeting. Tell them also that diversity has been shown to improve business success and profitability which helps them keep their jobs.

Most importantly, your values have not changed. If your values include respect, ethical behavior, communications, trust, a positive workplace – or many others – remind staff of these values and how you expect people to demonstrate them at work. Pushing a political viewpoint on others or ignoring/harassing those who disagree with one is not a behavior you want to allow in the workplace. Harassing people who are different from one is another area you want to make clear is unacceptable.

If you are not sure if you have a problem, listen to your staff more. Ask a trusted employee about any such issues. Certainly this depends on what your own behavior has been and whether you need to change yourself first. But these types of issues sneak up in companies and suddenly you are facing legal action or regulatory review. Not what you want to deal with!

Rude behavior can often lead to bullying and sometimes even violence. HR staff in organizations all across the country report dealing with increasing employee relations issues since the election.

Your first steps for any indicated problems are to look into the issues and decide on your actions. Perhaps you need some training or education around your expectations of appropriate behavior. Some workplaces even have forbidden any political comments at work. Maybe for a single problem employee or limited issue, counseling is the best choice. Need more help? Ask your employment lawyer or HR consultant for ideas and help. Just don’t wait and hope any issues will blow over!