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Political Discussions at Work: How to Keep Things Under Control

Discussing Politics at Work

Today, our political environment is probably more volatile than it’s been in a generation. Everyone’s picked their respective “side,” dug their heels in and that’s it. So how do you handle this intense political polarization at work? We spend most of our waking hours with our colleagues, so it’s only natural to want to process some of the day’s news with them. While keeping politics completely out of the workplace is probably the smartest move, there are actually ways to chat about world events without alienating or offending anyone around you. It’s certainly an art, but it can be mastered with these tips in mind.

Know the rules.

The right to free speech doesn’t cover your employer — your job is free to set any rules they like around politics at work. So before you wear any politically themed items to the office or share any partisan comments, make sure that you won’t get fired for such activities. If you’re not careful, a fellow employee could view your comments as harassing or discriminatory, and then you’ll really be in hot water. Bottom line: understand and accept where you work.

Be respectful.

Deciding to wade into the political waters at work means you also must decide to be respectful. Even if you think the other side is absolutely insane, it’s important that you stay calm, collected and cordial throughout any politics-based exchanges. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind, so acknowledge the views of the other side, attempt to find some common ground and remain non-confrontational. Play nice.

Know the downside of weighing in.

Working with the same people day in and day out has likely given you some idea about their political leanings. If there’s someone on the team that you see eye-to-eye with, a little political talk is likely harmless as long as it’s kept quiet and amongst yourselves. But if you unexpectedly find yourself in a political debate over lunch and it’s an issue that you feel strongly about, carefully weigh if it’s worth speaking up for your side. If yours is the opposing viewpoint, you risk fracturing a relationship.

Avoid hot-button issues.

There are some topics that you’ll likely never be able to have a workplace-appropriate conversation about. Any issue that touches on moral or religious beliefs — such as abortion or marriage equality — should be avoided at all costs. They simply have no place in office discourse.

Know when to walk away.

If things are getting too hot and tempers are starting to flare, it’s time to politely end the conversation and walk away. Protect your reputation by being mature and not letting things get out of hand.

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