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Talking politics at work

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Only a few weeks remain before the American presidential election.

And, with the financial mess the United States finds itself in, today’s generation has never seen such public displays of political urgency. In fact, with the economic crisis spreading around the world, everyone seems to be taking part in the debate, the Caribbean included.{{more}}

With so much happening, the temptation to talk about political topics at work will be truly overwhelming – but think twice before you give in. Political discussions can be tempting but beware the following:

  • Building animosity. Although we should all be professionals, political views can break down relationships at work. People are passionate about their candidates and political parties and issues, and spoken words run the risk of offending, or even angering, a colleague, a manager, or a senior leader. Simple discussions can escalate to disagreements and then public arguments. The political grudges that result can run deep, linger silently, and last for years.
  • Many issues will never again be discussed openly. Such instances could affect your ability to build strong relationships, relationships that might help your career. Is winning a debate over a political issue really worth that?
  • Hampering productivity. Every office has someone who is a political junkie. They follow politics incessantly and know all the views of all the candidates. With that much information, this personality type craves finding people to share their opinions with, even if doing so means interrupting a colleague who is busy.
  • Annoying coworkers. Sometimes, overly involved coworkers engage colleagues in such constant conversation that nearby workers cannot concentrate on tasks, even those who are not participating in the discussion directly. They engage others outside office doors or beside cubicle walls, making it impossible for the general workforce to work. Feelings of annoyance build to resentment and because no one is able to get their work done, that person is branded negatively. Long after the elections, they may still find themselves being avoided or pushed outside, all because they made such a bad impression earlier.

If you are still not convinced to avoid this dangerous road and insist on going down it, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Stay neutral. If you do decide to talk politics, keep the conversation basic and do not allow yourself to be baited into expressing views you are really passionate about. Heated debates always occur when others try to defend their opposing, equally passionate views-work is just not the place for political debate.

2. Keep the conversation short. Don’t turn the conversation into a lengthy forum or soapbox. Instead, make a few brief, and neutral, comments then change the topic, leave the room, or listen to your colleagues.

3. Get out of the fire! If you can’t resist engagement and the first two tips have suddenly failed you, take control of yourself and follow one of the first two tips!

Elections come and elections go and candidates change their views (and, sometimes, even their party affiliations), but you might not have the flexibility of rebuilding your reputation or your career with such ease. Let politics be fun and pay attention to the debate enough to make your informed decisions, but do not express yourself at the expense of your livelihood. It’s always best to consider the topic of politics forbidden.

Karen Hinds President/CEO –
Workplace Success Group,
Toll Free: 1-877-902-2775;
Tel: 1-203-757-4103
[email protected]
Creator of The Workplace Success Program (TM)