Talking politics at the office is risky business,
especially when sharing small offices and tight cubicle spaces.
It is Presidential re-election time and at this moment, I have a friend who is avoiding her office as she is of one party affiliation and 99% of her co-workers are for the other party. She is finding it difficult to enter her own office. This is a tough, go-getter woman. She states that the political conversations continue all day and she feels that it’s inconsiderate for them to hurl such harsh remarks, knowing where she stands politically. When it comes to political talk, unfortunately, there are normally those one or two individuals who are so convicted that words get out of hand.
There are some companies that have mastered this. The office is such that it is conducive to political talk. It may be part of the office dynamic with gentle ribbing, but it is most often one where workers are kept in check by management or the employees that were hired generally have a certain type of disposition that doesn’t lend itself to voice-raising, insult-throwing political debate. Management is ultimately responsible for the tone of an office, and yes, that includes setting parameters for heated topics such as politics. It may even be written into the office handwork code of ethics. I advise this when dealing with my corporate clients.
Another friend is the wife of a former longtime Congressman who is not of my party affiliation. It has never affected our feelings for each other but . . . we are extremely careful when we discuss politics. We are calm, chat lightly about politics and then . . . go on with our friendship.
In a press interview, I talked about how politics played into a job interview that I once had.
I was being interviewed for a job. The president of the company found out about my involvement in a certain political party and the fundraisers that I had held for Presidential, Gubernatorial, and Senatorial candidates. He barged into the interview and launched into a tirade, acting completely inappropriately. I was in the fifteen remaining finalists after having been narrowed from mega hundreds for a particular, highly sought after position. It was not pretty. I sat quietly at first and listened and then I felt compelled to respond, so I smiled and said, “Well, I guess that means that I didn’t get the job,” and that was that.
The ideal world would be one where we can listen to opposing points of view, respect them, and never allow condescension or anger to take over. But humans have pressure points, and while each office is different and each situation is unique, overall, (and I want to stress the “overall’, meaning clearly that there are people and some offices that have these types of conversations under control) it is this Business Etiquette Coach and Corporate Trainer’s opinion that it is best to restrict office place political dialogue, unless it is among a group that has proven in the past that they are tolerant and mature enough to withstand “the other side” or . . . the talks are being held among a group sharing the same party beliefs.
Since political debate lends itself to emotionally charged discussion, save the politics for home and family discussions rather than risk affecting your work space or co-worker relationships.
It can make returning to the office environment uncomfortable.