Silver-Linings Playbook? Olympic Upsets, Rio Controversy & Managing Politically-Charged Activities In The Workplace

They say, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. But for a few Olympic athletes knocked out in the first rounds of Rio competition, that’s easier said than done.

In tennis, tears were shed on both sides of the court—for Juan Martin del Potro, they were tears of joy at his surprising defeat of frontrunner Novak Djokovic, and for Djokovic, tears of disappointment after his dreams were dashed.

“No doubt it’s one of the toughest losses of my life, in my career,” Djokovic said after the match (via Rolling Stone). 

“It’s not the first or the last time I’m losing a tennis match but Olympic Games, yeah, it’s completely different.”

Djokovic can still snag an Olympic medal in men’s doubles with his partner Nenad Zimonjic, which remains the silver lining after such a clear upset for the gold medalist.

It is rare that the clear favorite goes out in the first round of competition, but the same thing happened in women’s tennis this year. Venus and Serena Williams lost in the first-round at Rio against Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova, who defeated the infamous sisters 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday (via Bleacher Report).

The three-time doubles gold medalists will go home without a victory for the first time in their Olympic careers. The good news? Now Venus can prepare for the U.S. Open, where she will enter at her highest ranking since 2011, without further distraction in politically-charged Rio.

In fact, the Rio Olympics has stirred nothing but controversy since it started. The first American gold metal in the games came from shooter Ginny Thrasher, who set an Olympic record of 208.0 in the 10-meter air rifle event, snagging victory in scandalous upset. Instead of cheers, Thrasher got jeers from gun control activists overshadowing the win with discussions about gun rights and associated political debates.

“I just tried to focus on the competition,” said Thrasher about the political distraction (via USA Today).

Nevertheless, the attention her sport gained via the controversy is clear. Air rifle events have never gained so many headlines. 

Outside Olympic rifle ranges and inside law firm boardrooms, what happens when political talk interrupts workflow or escalates to bad behavior?

As an employer trying to retain productivity, keep the peace, and avoid legal landmines can be more challenging than you may think. There are rules for what employers can and can’t do to manage political activity in the workplace, including:

  • How to manage political discussions and fundraising
  • How to address political discussions in the workplace under federal and state laws
  • How the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) applies
  • How the new SCOTUS ruling Heffernan vs. City of Paterson impacts employers
  • When an employee’s political discussion is protected by the First Amendment 

To learn how to avoid being the target of bad policies and possible lawsuits, take C4CM’s webinar, “Politics in the Workplace: How to Legally Manage Politically Charged Activity at Work,” on Wednesday, August 17, 2016 from 2:00 PM To 3:15 PM EasternBy the end of the information-packed session, you will know more about:

  • When discipline for political-related behavior is appropriate and legal
  • What defines political harassment in the workplace
  • What constitutes business harm from employee’s political speech
  • How to handle controversial or political social media posts by an employee
  • How to handle office sponsored political functions supported by management
  • Dress code do’s and don’ts as they apply to political speech

For now, no need to be upset by Olympic upsets—for each competitor, losing gold may lead to even better silver linings.



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