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Walking the Fine Line: Talking Politics at Work

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day is upon us. From ads on the bus to political TV commercials and tweets to Facebook updates galore, it is no surprise that talk of Election Day makes its way into the workplace.

The fact of the matter is that talking politics can go sour, fast. What you may think is a simple observation could be taken the wrong way and have a long term negative effect on a working relationship, and ultimately a team dynamic. When it comes to talking politics at work, it is always better to be conservative in your conversations - and we don't mean in terms of your political stance.

According to the Society for Human Resources Management, 65% of workplaces do not have a formal written or unwritten policy on political activities. The lack of policy can get sticky, but JobBound has 7 tips for talking politics in the office: Election Day and beyond!

1. Listen. If you are stuck at lunch with someone who is gushing about their obsession for a political candidate that you can't stand, just listen. Don't rebut, but try to change the subject.

2. Use neutral language. Be careful of language that indicates your position on an issue. Always be neutral and avoid words that could potentially offend a colleague.

3. Don't make assumptions. It is not smart to judge someone's political affiliation. Even if you think you are 99.9% positive that you and a colleague likely share political points of view, keep your thoughts to yourself.

4. Don't take sides. If you feel like the moderator between two colleagues in a heated political debate, stay out of it. Simply walk away and indicate that you do not wish to talk politics at work. Their dispute is between them.

5. Find common ground. If you are outspoken and you find yourself in an uncomfortable political conversation, try to bring it back by finding common ground and something that you can agree on.

6. Spare the flair. These days, you certainly have quite the selection of passive electioneering outfits to choose from. When it comes to the workplace, stick to your standard attire. Your electoral ensemble should consist of nothing more than your "I Voted" sticker.

7. Mind your social networks. If you connect with employees on social networks, be careful about what you post. Broadcasting your opinions could annoy others, which could hurt a working relationship.

Recognize that democratic citizenship is an integral part of exercising your rights as a citizen in the land of the free and the home of the brave. In fact, your employer is probably glad that you are engaged in the election. However, you must be mindful that the office is land of collaboration, home of productivity. Any conversation that could hinder these has no place at the office.


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