During Election Season, Political Discussion Ensues

On the eve of the democratic presidential primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, office workers nationwide may be engaged in serious political discussions. While a hallmark of our democracy, these discussions can lead to at best, tensions in the office and at worst, political shouting matches.

As Americans spend more time at the office and the line blurs between employees’ work and personal lives, coworkers often become members of one’s social circle and therefore a sounding board for one’s political views and opinions. However, while political talk in the office should not be discouraged, it is important that certain ground rules be followed.

Passions and tensions are high and the general election is still seven months away. The fight for the Democratic nomination is getting more rancorous and proponents of each candidate are getting more vocal. Most companies do not have a formal policy about political discussions in the workplace and most do not need one. However, it is something that department heads and managers should be mindful of in an election year.

For the most part, employees have to monitor their own behavior. One of the keys to political discussions at the office is to keep them brief and light. The last thing you want is for conversation to become confrontational. Supervisors should also be particularly careful about engaging subordinates in political debate.

In today’s political arena, where political and religious views are often closely entwined, supervisors should avoid putting themselves in a position that could leave them vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits.

Here are a few tips when engaging in political discussions:

Keep it civil. Do not let friendly banter deteriorate into a name-calling shouting match.

Know your colleague. Career-wise, it is probably safer to converse with those who share your views. If unsure about a colleague’s views, then avoid political conversations or carefully probe for his or her views.

Do not campaign. Give-and-take conversations are acceptable, but campaigning can be off-putting. If someone expresses discomfort with political discussions, respect his or her wishes.

Stick to politics. While politics are increasingly entwined with religion, consider that aspect of the debate off limits.

Do not evaluate based on politics. You may not agree with a coworker’s political views, but, if you are a supervisor, do not let that influence your assessment of that person’s work and/or value to the company.

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