Recently Google banned political debates at workplaces to improve their work culture. It said that people should only debate and have conversations around their work.
Each person has the right to follow his own ideology – be it political or non-political. The question is whether they can be vocal about it at workplaces. Next should companies have restrictions on political debates by employees within their premises.
There are a few companies which discourage employees or use preventive measures to stop any political debates at the workplace – their rationale is why do employees need to debate on political issues when it doesn’t relate to business. Rather, it creates differences amongst the employees and also distracts them from their regular routine work. Thus, impacting the overall work culture.
However, there are also companies which believe that any such restriction will violate the freedom of expression and thought of employees.
Do restrictions on political debate in office premises, really help in creating a better work culture and maintain positive relations amongst employees?
HRKatha spoke to three HR leaders for their point of view.
Vijay Singh, VP-HR, JK Cement
Freedom of speech is the fundamental right of any citizen in a democracy. Banning the right to speak is violation of the fundamental right. Any kind of healthy debate or discussion helps in creation of a perspective. Politics and cricket in India are two things that keep us together. Having said that, I feel there is also a need of checks and balances.
From the organisation point of view, political debates should be encouraged to the extent that it does not impact the working environment of the organisation. If the organisations nature of business is wherein it can impact the society through its social platform then there is a high probability that allowing political debate might influence the employees of the organisation.
Organisations which are not into a position to influence the society, there too the political debate should be allowed only when the organisation eco system is mature enough to accept the diversity. Employees professionalism have to be assessed before allowing the political debate as it should not malign the social fabric of the organisation.
Paneesh Rao, chief people officer, Mindtree
At L&T Infotech, in cafeterias, where people have their lunch and coffee, we switched over to Doordarshan for news. We avoided channels which broadcasted heated debates on political issues. We did so because such debates can hurt the sentiments of an individual and create problems in their work life. Such debates and arguments get very personal and creates differences between employees and colleagues. These debates are not even work related and does not impact the organisation at all. It effects the working relationships at workplace. As long as these debates are mature it is fine but if it creates diversion of thoughts amongst the people, they should not be allowed to harbour in the organisation. You have social groups on Facebook where people express their views and it creates diversion and affects the working relation of employees. It leads to people leaving the group and create differences. It leads to people taking sides and create differences. At the end of all, we are professionals and why should differences in ideologies of people impact the working relationship. If you want to have such discussions you can have it outside the office. There are a lot work related subjects that we can talk about in the offices, you are welcome to do that.
Mangesh Bhide, Head HR, technology & FTTx business, Reliance Jio Infocomm
I do not think that having political debates at workplace would be a problem because it is about diversity of thoughts, actions and feelings. If you do not allow diversity of thoughts and opposite opinions what is the guarantee that you will encourage diversity of different point of view at work? If you are not allowing different point of views at work then it is like making people think in the same direction and creating clones. By doing such a thing you are creating a closed working culture which will not grow and die one day. Unless it is coming in the way of your work and hampering productivity, there is no point in restricting people to have conversations on political issues. Having a different point of view does not mean enmity all the time, there is an exchange of different thoughts that takes place which can also be a learning at times. By having such laws in place you are regimenting the corporate world. Allowing different point of views and encouraging debates creates a culture of openness and also creates a sense of acceptance.