Politics At Work: 3 Reasons To Avoid The Conversation

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Politics At Work: 3 Reasons To Avoid The Conversation
By Tammy Stone, The Psychology of Business

With the recent election, it seems impossible to avoid the political water cooler talk. Every policy change, DC happening, or #alternativefacts interview, creates an abundance of opinions. The opinions are usually very polarizing. The question is whether you should share yours at work. If you decide to join a political conversation, here are three things to consider first:

1. You’re At Work.
You have to see these people every day. If you get into a heated debate, are you going to feel comfortable seeing them the next day? The other thing to consider is if they will feel comfortable seeing you everyday. A study showed “33% of workers cited [politics] as a major contributing factor to feelings of unhappiness in the workplace” (onrec). If you’re involved in the conversation, be careful who can hear you. Pay attention to where you have the debate, and your surroundings. A coworker listening from a distance is also someone who you could offend.

2. People Are Passionate.
Politics covers countless topics from money, to relationships, to lifestyles. There is always going to be differences in the way people feel and vote. This election was especially unique. A 2016 study showed that, “47 percent [of employees] said people are more likely to discuss politics in the workplace this election season than in the past” (APA). If you’re talking to someone and their passion turns into a scene, how are you going to react? An innocent debate can turn into the spotlight of inappropriate office conversation. It could damage your working relationship or reputation. Suggest meeting after work to continue the conversation.

3. Not Everybody Wants To Fight Fair.  
Understand who you are fighting with. What influence (if any) do they have over your employment and career growth. Do you report to them? Are they friends with your boss? Think about the future, you never know if your professional career paths will cross again. No matter how professional someone is, emotions can override logic during political discussions. A study conducted in Washington DC found that  “27% of working Americans reported at least one negative outcome as a result of political discussions at work” (American Psychological Association). Since we are only a few months into our current presidency, there will be plenty of offensive things to come. Your opinions today can influence your future tomorrow.

Debates can be eye opening and insightful. They should happen, but make sure it’s in the right setting. Some families choose not to discuss politics at all. There is too much disagreement around it. Consider what it can do to your working relationships, and career before partaking. Try to understand the other side and how you could offend someone, whether it’s intentional or not. Be the first to take the high road.

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