Talking Politics In The Office: How To Keep The Peace

Gotta love an election year. There’s vitriol in the air and angst in our hearts. The world is either ferociously reading every news article that makes its way into their inbox or super busy burying their heads in the sand until December. President Schmesident.

As a liberal in a Midwestern state, I’m pretty comfortable operating in an office where almost no one agrees with my political outlook. I’ve developed a keen sense of when to keep my mouth shut or avoid conversation. I’ve even convinced my conscious to nod along politely when my bosses or co-workers state opinions that I vehemently disagree with. But should political discourse in the office always include avoidance and misrepresentation in the name of office tranquility? Should the minority opinion always bite their tongue in favor of keeping the peace?

In a perfect world, no one would discuss politics or religion in professional settings. These talks would happen when you’re in intimate conversation with people whose opinions you trust and respect. Not that you don’t like Phil from graphic design, you just aren’t particularly worried about his views on the deficit. You shouldn’t have to be! Who really cares about anyone’s opinion on the deficit?

I suppose Phil from graphic design does.

Alas, this isn’t a perfect world and Phil is the only person in the kitchen when you sit down to lunch. There’s just no avoiding it. Even worse, sometimes politics inserts itself directly into your life at work. after all, businesses tend to have some specific legislative opinions. Mostly, “Please let us do whatever we want.”

So how can you navigate the political landscape in an election year without creating turmoil and anger in your office? Well here’s a few things to keep in mind.

  • Try to hold back the emotions. Don’t make this a personal battle. Don’t bring up your cousin whose a single mother who could really benefit from birth control being covered in her medical plan. We all have emotions attached to our political views, but that’s not the way to argue with your colleagues. You don’t want this to become a hurtful conversation.
  • Don’t ignore the off-hand comments. You don’t have to address every single one of them. But you might want to keep them in mind when political discussions pop up. Someone who has been mumbling about Obama’s socialist tendencies under their breath for months obviously feels a lot of resentment here. You need to remember that while you’re trying to keep the conversation light-hearted.
  • No one should be forced to share their opinion. We all appreciate this rule when it applies to something we aren’t comfortable talking about. And then we find ourselves in the majority opinion and decide to pressure others until they cave. This courtesy should be afforded to everyone. If they don’t feel comfortable in the conversation, they need to be able to make a quit exit without people hounding them.
  • This can’t affect your work. Listen, social issues in the office can make people uncomfortable or stressed. Politics is really just another social issue, because the problems come from damaged co-worker relationships due to differing opinions. None of that actually involves your job. Unless you work in politics, in which case I just feel sorry for you. The point is, Democrat or Republican, you can’t let an election cycle have an impact on your productivity. Ever.
  • There’s always another election. Political commentary is a huge issue, because there’s always another election. There’s always a new issue. A decade from now, we’ll still be discussing economic development, the Constitution and the government’s role in protecting cultural morals. These arguments won’t go away. So it’s not worth blowing up and possibly losing your job over creating office drama about a single issue. Try to keep it in perspective, no matter what your opinion on health plans covering birth control is.
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