Submitted by: Connie Dorigan | Director of Recruiting

Who will lead our county in the not-too-distant future is a hot topic. Maybe too hot!

Are you over-sharing your political views?

Unless you’re one of those rare birds whose primary paid gig is as a political campaign manager, political discussions are not relevant nor what you’re paid to do.

Politics are a divisive topic, especially these days with partisanship at an all-time high. Thus, when engaging in political workplace debates, generally you’ll find you have nothing to gain, but everything to lose. Why?

  • If you disagree, whether you “win” the debate or not, you may well find yourself sacrificing your working relationship.
  • The reality is, you’re unlikely to change anyone’s mind. Those with strong opinions are rarely interested in being confused by the (contrary) facts, which are often bent more acutely than your average pretzel anyway.
  • Those on the fence — those few who might be open to being swayed– are usually wisely the least likely to want to raise the subject in the workplace.
  • Even if you’re in agreement or providing a fence sitter with invaluable “information,” you’re still spending time discussing a topic that’s keeping you from being more productive.

What should do you do when the topic of politics arises at work?

5 Non-Career-Limiting Tips
for Political Discussions
in the Workplace

  1. Easiest Out?
    Follow the priceless golden oldie most of us learned from our mothers, early on…. “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” How many political discussions are focused purely on what unassailably fact-based actions make a particular candidate clearly the winner? Outside a true, honest, open discussion around that, the topic typically devolves quickly. Unless you’re being asked your political opinion directly, just say nothing– and don’t “cheat” with obvious non-verbal nays and yeas either. Eventually the discussion will be dropped.
  2. Indulge in Unbiased Curiosity — Off the Clock.
    As far back as 400 BC, famed Chinese general and military strategist Sun-tzu advised, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” While you may not find politically opposed colleagues “enemies,” contrary opinions provide an excellent learning experience. Rather than offering your opinions, neutrally admit your own concerns about both candidates. Ask questions. Nicely. Consider their responses not as launching pads for attack, but instead for ways to learn more. Thank your colleagues for their insights – after all, listening does not have to mean agreeing. Still, avoid wasting a lot of productive work time in these chats. Maybe this is simply a friendly chat over coffee, at lunch or after-work get-togethers. Remember your usual ps and qs in socials settings. Who knows? You might forge stronger friendships and even learn something new that will change your mind.
  3. Give A Giggle
    Regardless of your political leanings, who can forget Tina Fey’s classic and hilarious Sarah Palin impersonation sketches from the ’08 election? As one wag said, “I should run for political office just to see what kind of scandalous dirt they dig up. It would be fun to piece together my twenties.” Seriously, keep a few universally funny non-partisan quotes on hand (maybe “Last Week Tonight” satirist John Oliver’s material can tickle some funny-bones). It’s hard to fight when you’re too busy laughing. After a good giggle, it’s much easier to transition back to the task at hand – your work.
  4. Develop Political Intelligence*
    If you find yourself getting drawn into these discussions, rely on fact-based sources of integrity. That excludes the vaunted yet often politically biased truth-o-meters out there with their pretty bar charts. Avoid using loaded politically tainted words that tend raise ire, such as “pro life” or “pro choice.” Monitoring candidate voting records on particular issues, then understanding why that vote was made is a more reliable political indicator. For example, even environmentally-focused candidates sometimes vote against pro-environment legislation when the bill is poorly written. Elevating the discussion to how best to learn more about who’s most qualified is a win-win for everyone. Then, change the subject.

*Really — political intelligence doesn’t have to be an oxymoron!

  1. Remember “Friends” Share on Social Media
    If you engage vehemently online, even “just (Facebook) ‘friends’” share. Word of your stance will not remain private. Worse, once it’s out there it can live on forever in the biosphere. Unless you feel so strongly that you’re fine being blocked from that raise or promotion from some petty manager who is aware and equally vehemently opposed to your rhetoric, consider with care what you share online. Having political opinions is fine. How you choose to express them – if you care about the ramifications — is another matter.

Bottom Line?

Sex. Religion. Politics. These (and how much money you make) are the time-tested trio of terrible topics for the career savvy. Don’t bring them up. If they are raised, impress your colleagues with your ability to treat their views with respect while changing the topic so smoothly they won’t even appreciate your impressive diplomatic skills until later.

When it comes to discussing your political leanings in the workplace, as classic political satirist Mark Twain wryly quipped,” It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.” Keeping everyone’s focus on the paid task at hand is just plain smart.

And – don’t forget to vote! If there’s one place your opinion matters the most, it’s at the ballot box (in those lovely sealed envelopes)!

What?!? Did you think I was going to pick a candidate, tell you who it is, then proceed to diss the opposition? Nope. Wayyy unprofessional. May the best man — or woman — win!