Should You Talk Politics at Work?

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Every partisan election is a polarizing event. Formerly friendly coworkers can suddenly become Rabid Republicans or Dogmatic Democrats. While destructive conflicts should be avoided at all costs, it can be hard to avoid all conversation about these major happenings in our shared public life.

Not surprisingly, a recent study found that 66% of people said their coworkers discussed politics at the office. So here are some points to keep in mind when dealing with political differences at work.

1. Political opinions often reflect deeply-held values.
When you insult a person’s preferred candidate, they may take it as a personal attack. So choose your words carefully. It’s easy to offend.

2. Some people don’t care and don’t want to discuss it.
Not everyone finds political issues engaging. If your coworkers are bored by the topic, don’t push it.

3. Other people care a lot and don’t want to discuss it.
Some people who are deeply engaged in politics simply don’t enjoy emotionally charged debates. Don’t push it with them, either.

4. Remember that at work you should be working.
Chatting about politics is fine, but lengthy discussions should be saved for lunch or after hours.

5. Don’t offend your customers.
Ditch the political debates if clients or customers might overhear you. If they are offended by your remarks, they could decide to take their business elsewhere.

6. Recognize that the aftereffects can linger.
Because political views are very personal, it’s easy to unintentionally offend people. It’s also easy for them to label you with negative stereotypes. The result can be permanently damaged working relationships.

7. Discussion is okay, campaigning is not.
It’s fine to share your views. But if you start pressuring your colleagues to agree, you’ve crossed the line. Work should be a no-campaign zone.

8. Managers are held to a higher standard.
Managers have power over their employees, so they must never try to influence their political views. Your employees should never feel pressured to agree with you.

If you’re respectful of those who disagree and mindful of your comments, then you should survive the political season with your professional relationships intact.