10 Tips for Talking Politics at Work

Posted October 22, 2012 by
Aaron Gouveia

Aaron Gouveia, Salary.com contributing writer

In a perfect world, this article wouldn’t have to be written. When it comes to politics, reasonable people would agree to disagree, cast their ballots in private without fanfare, and then go back to office small talk. But during this election season in the most politically divisive time in recent memory, that’s just not in the cards. So the question isn’t whether or not people should talk politics at work, but how to survive talk of the election during office hours.

It’s hard to escape politics these days. As Election Day nears, the political ads are all over TV and radio, candidates engage in a series of debates, the 24-hour news cycle has fresh content every five minutes, and the advent of Facebook and Twitter means millions of Americans have a platform on which to feature their political leanings. As work and life turn into more of a blend than a balance, it’s only natural politics will come up at work as well as at home.

But regardless of how you’re voting in November, there are unspoken guidelines you should follow when it comes to talking politics during work hours. Because after months of mudslinging and debate, the next president will be chosen, but you’ll still have to get along with the same coworkers and bosses. Here’s how you can do just that.

10. Keep the Office/Cube a No-Spin Zone

It’s great to be involved in current events and have opinions on political matters. But try to draw the line at displaying those opinions on your cubicle or office walls for all to see.

First of all, you should check with human resources to make sure the posting of political propaganda is even allowed, since many companies opt to restrict such things. But even if you CAN do it, that doesn’t mean you should. If your office is where the majority of meetings are held or you’re consistently bringing clients in there, it might not be the smartest idea to create a space rife with tension and potential disagreements. Also, why take the chance of raising the ire of your boss if he/she turns out to be a fan of the candidate you abhor?

Furthermore, if your colleagues — who you likely see every day — hold strong beliefs that directly contradict yours, then you’re intentionally creating a hostile environment. And that benefits no one.

9. Don’t Use Work Email/Supplies to Spread Your Message

We know you care who gets elected, but is it really worth your job?

Almost every company has email regulations and chances are, they include not using work email for personal reasons. More than that, your employer almost certainly does not want you taking work distribution lists and using them to spread messages either promoting your candidate or trashing the opponent. People get enough spam in their personal folders, they certainly don’t need you clogging their inbox at work. And we’re guessing you don’t want to be fired for violating company policy.

Besides, it’s safe to assume people are being barraged by more information than they care for during election season. No need for you to add to the chaos unnecessarily.

8. Be Mindful of Social Media

Granted, most people use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. for personal reasons. But even though it might be a personal account, be wary of who is watching when you use social media as a platform for your political opinions.

Do you have bosses and coworkers on your friends list? Are people at work following you on Twitter? Even though you might post your political rants from the privacy of your own home while you’re off the clock, you still have to come face-to-face with potentially irritated coworkers and managers the next morning. So either ramp up those privacy settings or think long and hard about whether your love/disdain for a specific candidate is worth the aggravation it might cause for 40 hours a week.

7. Try to Be Non-Confrontational

When it comes to talking politics at the office, many people take a “only if I’m asked” approach.

After all, what does a heated political discussion in the average American workplace really accomplish? Are you really trying to sway the (most likely few) undecided voters in your row of cubicles, do you get a kick out of stirring the pot, or are you genuinely interested in a respectful debate regarding the issues of the day? If it’s the latter, there’s some merit to that if it’s conducted the right way. But more than likely in today’s political climate, it will turn into a debacle by the water cooler.

So you might be safer waiting until you’re asked directly about something, that way you can gauge who is asking you and take an educated guess at what his/her true intentions are. While politicians in a debate are criticized for staying neutral, members of a team still have to worry about promotions, raises and office politics.  Continue reading . . .

Article by Aaron Gouveia and courtesy of Salary.com

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