Keep workplace political talk short
It’s going to be hard to avoid discussions about politics at work, or any in just about any other social situation, this week.
Workplace experts, however, are cautioning employees to tread very, very lightly if the conversations turns to tomorrow’s presidential election, or expressing your opinion pertaining to the results.
First, make sure you’re aware of your workplace’s policy concerning politics. Some workplaces encourage political discussion due to the nature of their industry, like the media, while others, such as government offices, have an obligation to remain neutral.
As a general rule, political conversations should take place in a private setting and not in the common areas of the office where customers might overhear. Also, be sure to have those conversations only with trusted colleagues.
“Generally speaking, I advise people to avoid getting into politics at work, particularly when it comes to customer-facing positions,” said Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, organizational psychologist and author of “The YOU Plan in an article written by Forbes magazine.
Also, be very aware of the difference between stating a belief and trying to convince another into accepting your beliefs. “There’s a very clear difference between the two,” one human resource manager explained.
Discussing politics should follow the same rules one would use when discussing other personal issues such as religion.
“As a manager, if I saw that there was an issue, I would remind people that there are standards of professionalism and common courtesy,” advised Sandra Spataro, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Yale University’s School of Management in an online article at Monster.com.
Spataro said the amount of time workers spend discussing politics should be no different this week than any other. Keeping the discussion to the normal amount of daily chit-chat is best, she said.
Also, keep in mind that the election season is a very short window of time. Hopefully, you’ll have a long working relationship with your coworkers so don’t do anything to damage those relationships, most workplace experts said.
The most dangerous pitfall however in discussing politics at work does not lie in the political candidates themselves but the issues they stand for, explained Bruce Weinstein, author of “The Ethics of Talking Politics at Work” for Bloomberg Businessweek.
“When talk in the office turns to politics, the conversation inevitably touches on the meaningful issues at stake in the election, and most of these issues are by their nature highly divisive,” Weinstein said. It could lead into conversations about abortion, same-sex marriage, marijuana, and wealth tax.
“In all but a few instances, where you stand on each issue has little or no bearing on the job you are doing or your ability to do it,” he said, adding your opinions may also reveal information about yourself that you may not want your boss to know.