Our mothers always told us, “Never discuss religion or politics”. Unfortunately, in today’s hyper-connected, twenty-four-hour news cycle obsessed world, we are constantly surrounded by politics. We look down at our phones, we turn on our computers, we pass by a television, and all we see is political chatter. So, how should this translate into our professional lives?
We are surrounded with the same group of people eight hours a day. It’s natural for us to vent our political frustrations or share our political ponderings with these people. Is this acceptable? The answer is, “it depends”. We have found some of what we believe to be the most important tips to abide by when discussing politics in the workplace:
Nearly 25% of companies already have existing policies regarding political discussion in the workplace. Before you venture into any heated conversations, check and see if you work for one of these companies. Aside from a policy that’s set in stone, your supervisor could just have an unspoken rule against political discussion in the office. In the case of either of these scenarios, keep your mouth shut.
IF YOU’RE THE BOSS
If you are in a leadership role, it’s best NOT to engage in political discussion with your subordinates. If they feel encouraged to share their political opinions with you, any decisions you make about their career in the future could be seen as a reaction to their political beliefs. For instance, let’s say you get into a political argument with one of your employees. Six months later you have to let them go because of budget cuts. They could assume part of the reason they got fired was because of your different political leanings. It’s best for those in charge to steer clear.
DISCUSS TO LEARN
If you are going to talk politics around the office, do it correctly. Anything else is a recipe for unwanted office drama. You are not going to convince any of your coworkers to switch political parties or change their views on an issue while standing in front of the water cooler. If you engage with coworkers in political discourse, view it as an opportunity to learn about an issue, or better yet, learn about your coworker. After all, our political leanings have a lot to do with our past life experiences.
NEVER discuss politics with clients or potential clients. If your clients bring up the topic first, change the subject. This should be a no-brainer. If they feel insulted by a political discussion they had with you, they could have reason to move their business elsewhere. It’s not worth the risk of losing an account.
USE YOUR COMMON SENSE
At the end of the day, all of this advice leads back to the concept of using common sense, caution, and sensitivity. The world today is already polarized enough. There’s no reason to bring unnecessary tension into your office. You know yourself, you know your coworkers; use your best judgment to know how to navigate these conversations. If they are not beneficial, stay away.