Intelligent leaders deal with division and tension in the employee ranks by creating solid foundations for their efforts. To do this, they define their values and behavioral expectations. They then communicate them to employees clearly and consistently. Emotional intelligence is an essential leadership ability for dealing with tension in the workplace.

Political pundits agree we’re living in an increasingly polarized society. People are granting more importance to their political views and opinions, but they’re also growing less tolerant of the political views of others.

Political and social divisions have made their way into the workplace. Always ready to voice their opinions and engage in debates, people’s differing views can create tension within teams, sabotaging performances and productivity.


Political debate can be healthy or toxic. 

How can leaders handle the divisiveness of political debate without forcing employees to stifle their opinions or appearing overly authoritarian in the process?

“Your political views should be your political views. I believe in business being non-partisan.” – Mark Henry. 

From the perspective of a leadership coaching specialist, snubbing out debate on any level is counterproductive. It can hurt employee morale, satisfaction, and the sense of psychological safety, which should be a non-negotiable aspect of a healthy workplace.

Leadership coaching encourages debate as much as it despises toxicity born of malicious conflict.

Employees should be able to bring their authentic selves to work without having to worry about filters and taboos in expressing their opinions.

“Your political views really denote your spiritual views.” – Alanis Morissette. 

Leaders must find ways to encourage differing viewpoints, honesty, and diverse opinions while keeping debates constructive and defeating workplace divisiveness. From the perspective of business coaching, keeping people on the same page about organizational values and goals is imperative. Here’s where executive coaching can help.

Emotional intelligence is a leitmotif of intelligent leadership. To be effective today, leaders need EQ. Executive coaching can help leaders develop emotional intelligence and apply it to manage workplace tensions.

Leading with Emotional Intelligence

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and emotional intelligence allows leaders to anticipate conflict and work on defusing it before it happens. Intelligent leadership is not fertile ground for conflict.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are:

  • Aware of themselves, their emotions, and the effects they have on their judgment
  • Capable of managing their emotions
  • Aware of the emotions of others and the ways these emotions make others behave
  • Capable of connecting emotionally with each person on their team
  • Capable of taking the emotional pulse of the team as a whole

Leaders who master these abilities can predict and preempt conflicts. They understand that avoiding controversial issues and sweeping them under the proverbial rug is never a viable solution.

By setting blanket rules that forbid people to discuss their views, all one can accomplish is to set the stage for internal dissent that’s bound to bubble to the surface at some point.

Clarifying Expectations Concerning Behaviors and Alignment with Company Values

By clearly communicating the values and purposes of organizations, leaders define sets of principles that govern workplace interactions. Having defined these values (which may include honesty, integrity, respect, inclusivity, etc.), leaders can:

  • Define behaviors they expect from team members
  • Provide examples of unacceptable behaviors
  • Define ways in which organizations will encourage behavioral alignment
  • Define the consequences of unacceptable behaviors
  • Ensure they communicate expectations clearly and consistently


Leaders can define values like respect and honesty as the fundamental values of their organizations. 

Acknowledging Tension and Addressing It

Business coaching sees internal conflicts as hurdles in the path of successful organizational scaling and progress. Coaches encourage leaders to acknowledge and address tension when it rears its head and threatens to undermine productivity.

When addressing internal conflicts, leaders should strive to return focus to shared goals instead of taking sides and affirming personal stances.

The primary objective of a team is to work well together. Leaders cannot iron out tensions in a day, nor should they aim to do so. By defining clear behavioral expectations and addressing conflicts as they appear, they can create cultures of growth and coaching in their organizations that defy conflict and defeat negativity.


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