Discussing Politics at Work
Conventional wisdom says that discussing religion, sex, or politics is usually a bad idea, especially at work. It’s obvious to see why you shouldn’t discuss sex at work, and most people seem to find it easy to avoid discussing religion. But for some reason, politics can be hard to avoid even at the workplace, especially near election time. People have a right to their opinions and a right to disagree with others, however, it’s important to maintain a professional and positive workplace atmosphere. Here are a few ways to handle controversial discussions at the workplace.
Be professional, and exercise empathy
Politics is a dirty business, but your workplace shouldn’t be. If you find yourself having a political discussion, make sure that you aren’t saying anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying in front of your supervisor. The use of professional language can go a long way towards keeping your office environment friendly and upbeat.
It’s always wise to use empathy in employee discussions, especially ones that are likely to bring up a lot of strong feelings. Your candidate may have won big in the debate last night, but before you gloat, remember that your coworker might favor a candidate who didn’t do so well. As always, treat your colleagues with the kind of respect you want.
Watch your emotions
Politics are a touchy area, and in an election year, emotions can be especially close to the surface. If you feel yourself getting angry or emotional, take a deep breath and step back from the discussion. If you notice a coworker getting upset, change the subject, and give everyone a chance to cool off. Taking the opportunity to act as a peacemaker will help keep the office environment friendly and will give a positive impression to any managers or supervisors who might be watching.
Be prepared to walk away
Uncomfortable conversations are going to happen at work, and it may or may not have anything to do with politics. It could be about sports, movies, or, really anything. People have a talent for finding things to disagree about.
If you feel a conversation is getting unnecessarily heated, or it’s making others uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to end the discussion. You can change the subject to something less heated, or subtly remind everyone that they’re at work by mentioning an upcoming project or meeting. If necessary, politely say that you should just agree to disagree.
Remember you don’t have to participate in political discussions at all
If there’s a political discussion at work, you don’t have to participate. There is nothing wrong with gracefully bowing out of any off-topic discussion in the workplace, whatever the topic may be. And remember that it’s always better to be discreet when you’re expressing your opinions about non-work topics. Remember that you will continue to work with your colleagues after the election, so maintaining a polite, professional attitude when a controversial subject comes up is always a wise course of action.