3 Rules to Know Before Discussing Politics at Work

Well, it’s another election year, and our TVs, radios, and the Internet are covered with coverage of the presidential election, as well as commentary on a number of different political issues.

And as we get closer to November, we will see more and more of this kind of ‘news’ blanketing the media.

Both sides can agree that few have seen a country this divided – and contentious – in decades, if ever.

Nevertheless, regardless of what side you’re on, and whether or not it’s an election year (presidential), there is always the topic of electoral politics in the workplace.

Do you or don’t you?  Can you talk about it?  When is it appropriate?

More On This...

You may work in a setting that is inundated with politics, and everyone talks about it all the time. Perhaps, on the other hand, you work in an office where no one ever speaks about anything political, and it is considered impolite to even bring up such a topic.  Or maybe you work at a workplace somewhere in the middle where certain issues are ok to discuss, but others are off-limits.

Regardless of where you find yourself, below are three rules of the road.

Listen Respectfully

You might have asked a question, or you might simply walk into the coffee room when someone’s on a rant.  Unless you can exit gracefully, you’re stuck.

Whether or not you agree, it is always wise to listen respectfully.  This means no snorting, rolling of the eyes, or making snide comments, no matter what you think, or how uninformed the other person might be (in your opinion).

Share Judiciously

Sometimes you want to share, but it’s wise to think about how that sharing might be received. When someone says something that is clearly wrong, you may want to jump in and point out the error.  But often, even if you had the facts, and were swearing under oath, they wouldn’t believe you anyway. So think about it.

Will your listener really be able to hear what you have to say?  If not, keep your thoughts to yourself.

Will you make someone uncomfortable, nervous, or embarrassed?  Again, if so, you probably want to wait until another time or place to share – or not at all.

Do you leave an opening when sharing your opinion?  For example, saying something like, “From what I’ve read and understand…” or “In my opinion…” is a bit more open than “Of course, any reasonable person knows…”

While it may be important for you to jump in to contribute when someone is saying something that you disagree with, think carefully about how you do so.

Don’t Ask What You Don’t Want to Know

At times, you might simply want someone to let you vent about what you saw on TV.  Or perhaps you want to discuss the latest polls, or the morning’s papers.

It’s important to be informed, to have your opinions, and to talk about them.

But be careful about asking for someone’s opinion, or their stance on a particular issue, unless you really want to know – especially at the office.

Will you be disappointed, or think of someone differently, if they share a viewpoint that is radically different from yours?

Remember You Still Have to Work with These People!

In short, remember that the office – although a place where we spend a bulk of our time – is still the workplace. We will want relationships with our colleagues long after this election.

Your teammates, colleagues and office friends are relationships you want to have for a long, long time (decades, at least), so think in the long term when deciding when – and how – to bring up politics at work.

How do you discuss politics at the office? What suggestions do you have for doing so wisely?