Ask HR


Friendship or politics?

Q. A colleague recently expressed discomfort about comments I made regarding the political climate in the country, saying that those are the kind of comments that undermine the friendship. He supports a rival party. Am I not free to express my political views in the office?  

Within any group of individuals, including those from the same team, you will find a divergence of views concerning various aspects of their environment. Politics is one of the subjects that carry the potential to inflame passion, which, unchecked, could create division and exclusion in teams.

Companies tend to discourage corporate political affiliation, driven mostly by the aspiration to reach as many clients as possible, unfiltered by political or other partisan persuasions. Neither the customer nor employee should have to pay a political price to deserve their place. Healthy organisational cultures allow individuals to hold different political views and do not, on this basis, rate their commitment to the organisation. An exception could be a political party where such tolerance is bound to be uncommon.

While employees are entitled to their political preferences and freedom, colleagues primarily come together to help their employer meet organisational objectives, not to promote political views at work. Untethered political passion at work may distract a teams’ focus on productivity, contaminate social climate and undermine collaboration.

Although you have the freedom to express your political views, it is not a license to strangle relations at work. It is advisable not to intrusively express your political views or demean the views of others as there cannot be a single view that quenches every political thirst. So, by all means, hold your political view, recognising that yours might just be as valid as your colleague’s. Do you consider it worthwhile to sacrifice your friendship on the altar of politics?

There are plenty of avenues for fervent political expression. There is value in recognising that while your political views may differ from your friend’s, there is one country to which you both owe service.


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