Most HR experts will agree that two topics should be avoided at work – politics and religion. We are seeign charged up sentiments across the world, be it nationlism, security, job losses or immigrant workers, you are bound to come across some chatter regarding politics at your workplace, and it does not have to become a war of words.
By Jappreet Sethi
Discussing politics at work or anywhere can turn contentious very soon, and this may have a lot of undesired effects on your professional life most of the times. You may feel strongly about a particular issue, candidate or a political party and that’s great, but discussing the same and especially debating about it may be a bad idea.
A Difference in Political Beliefs May Irk your Boss(and other colleagues)
Political debates can almost, every time, vex those who may hold a different view. You don’t want that person to be a co-worker especially your boss. This can undo the efforts you have put in for creating that excellent rapport with him/her. Opinions on areas such as politics can often differ and this difference can seep into personal and work relations, causing some detrimental effects.
Remember, no matter how public the political issues are, opinions about the same can be very personal. Political discussion can often lead to you or other people around you to create biased assumptions about each other, affecting the dynamics of the team immensely.
Engaging in debates about politics may also invite vitriol, particularly on your social media where your colleagues may feel more comfortable expressing their opinions.
Do’s and Don’ts to Avoid Political Debates at Work
A little chatter about politics as break room conversation does not always have to be harmful. But, since political discussions or even just a perfunctory comment can sometimes be so volatile, it is best to avoid such discussions to avoid a debate around it. Here are some do’s and don’ts that you can keep in mind.
- If at all you are faced with a conversation about political views, try to keep an open mind and make non-confrontational statements. Ensure that whatever you say is around ‘I’ and not ‘you’ because the moment the latter is used more, it can suddenly make the conversation hostile.
- Hear out what the other person has to say without jumping into it.
- Read the room. A lot of times conversation around politics is just for making small talk which is usually harmless. But if you feel that the discussions around you are more about validation, choose to not be a part of it by just not participating in it.
- Seek common ground. Instead of addressing which candidate or political party can do a better job, switch the conversation to a direction where both the parties can agree.
- Even if you find it difficult to deflect from conversations about politics, learn to draw boundaries for yourself. If you ever feel that your words may be building up to a debate, take responsibility for it and disengage. Do it by stating clearly that you do not intend to create any discomfort for anyone.
- Don’t engage in discussions about elections and politics even after work with your colleagues and boss. Hanging out with your work buddies after work is a great way to blow off steam but keep politics out of it too as it may find its way back to your professional life.
- Don’t touch hot button issues when someone initiates political conversations as just small talk.
- Even if you are faced with a situation that is difficult to avoid, do not voice your opinion in a way that vilifies the opposing views.
- Don’t be entirely candid about your political views at work. This can be very helpful in avoiding heated conversations around politics at work.
- Don’t decorate your cubicle and desk with signs and symbols of any political party or leader. This may invite unnecessary debates with colleagues who may not share the same affiliation. Moreover, this may be against your organisation’s policies.
There are a whole lot of topics that you can discuss at work instead of politics. Talk about your plans for the weekend, hobbies, recommend movies, or tell your colleague about the new restaurant you visited for making any small talk. You are allowed to be opinionated but remember that a debate on the political views during the lunch hour is less likely to change anyone’s views and more likely to affect your work relationship in a negative manner. So keep calm and don’t discuss politics!
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