The Politics of Talking Politics at Work

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It’s an easy trap to fall into. Especially if you’re a news junkie around election time.  You gather around the water cooler or in the lunch room, and you can’t resist when someone starts talking about their favorite politician, upcoming initiative, amendment or proposed new law. 

A recent survey of U.S. employees revealed that nearly half of US workers openly talk politics on the job. For younger workers, the percentage jumps to over 60 percent. But talking politics at work is bad politics. It could alienate certain co-workers, rise to heated discussions and “name calling,” even influence your boss and reduce your chances of getting that promotion.


Some simple rules to help you sidestep the political land mines at the office:


If the Boss is Political, Stay Neutral

Some bosses like to talk politics (although they shouldn’t). If they have political bumper stickers on their car or truck or they talk about who or what they’ll be voting for, stay neutral and change the subject. If you’re pressed for a viewpoint, make an excuse and leave for something “pressing” you forgot. Eventually, he or she will get the message that you don’t want to talk politics. 


If You’re Political, Stay Neutral

Resist the temptation to put political bumper stickers on your car. Same advice for politically themed coffee cups, bobble heads, photos of you with a candidate or at a campaign fund raiser. 

If Your Co-Workers are Political, Stay Neutral

This is a tough one if you want to stay friends and retain your sense of belonging with your co-workers. You can always say, “I’m still deciding and I haven’t  made up my mind.” Or, “I’m just starting to read more on the subject. “

If an Argument Erupts, Stay Neutral

It invariably happens, especially in the relaxed atmosphere of the lunchroom, the company picnic or after hours at a bar or restaurant. Two  politically active co-workers will go at it, escalating into shouts, bulging eyes and red faces. Resist the urge to take sides, even if you agree with one co-worker and you know the other is dead wrong (in your humble opinion).  This is a no-win scenario that always ends badly, creating next day resentments and new alignments of power in the office. 


Politically Safe Exit Strategies

If somehow, your boss or co-workers discover your true political leanings, you’ll have to ‘fess up and simply agree to disagree. Don’t bring up political topics. If the discussion in the lunchroom, company retreat  or after-hours get-together intensifies, circulate and move to the group not talking politics.  


As you can see, when it comes to politics at work,  it’s easy to “get sucked into the propeller.” The best strategy is to change the subject and stay neutral. 




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