Office politics means exercising power and networking within a company to gain an advantage, such as a promotion. The term has a bad connotation, implying backstabbing and other negative actions that hurt co-workers. But as bad as office politics may be, or is perceived to be, politics in the office is even worse.
Risks of politics in the office
Expressing political views at work can be detrimental to the person who’s expressing these views as well as to the atmosphere in the office. The Harvard Business Review says “politics often doesn’t make for good workplace conversation.” This is especially so in today’s politically-charged society.
Talking politics at work can create feelings of anger, resentment, isolation, etc. among co-workers. And it can be highly distracting.
Can you bar this free speech? Likely not, although there’s no federal legal protection for employees’ political speech in the workplace of a private employer. However, there are a number of states providing employees with protection for any retaliation against them for political speech.
Thus, hiring, firing, promoting, and compensation shouldn’t turn on a worker’s political leanings. There have been a handful of legal actions against companies by employees claiming their firing was due to retaliation for political speech at work (e.g., having a bumper sticker for a candidate that an owner clearly opposed).
Best bet: Be sure that any adverse actions against employees are carefully documented (e.g., habitual tardiness leading to termination) and don’t result from expressions of political opinions.
Any questions: Consult an employment law attorney.