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Can You Talk Politics at Work? If So, How?

Can You Talk Politics at Work? If So, How?

Politics remain one of the most controversial topics of discussion in any setting, especially now in the United States. Recent events such as the election result, are bound to come up amid your water-cooler talk, or whatever that is virtually. 

There are a lot of ideas and experiences that shape political mindsets, often conflicting with each other.  Even if any two people were supporters of the same political parties, they would not have arrived there with the same set of experiences.

A workplace requires the unity of members to achieve the common goals of the company. Thus, discussing politics might result in:

  • Distrust amid co-workers/teammates
  • A poor working relationship between people due to the different beliefs that they hold
  • Heated arguments and discussions that could go south, among other things.

This does not mean that the employees, teammates, and colleagues’ political ideas and mindsets should be shaped to a particular form. That is the loss of free will and the right to association in the way that they want. 

However, the workplace can be conditioned to allow such discussions healthily  – or barring any such talks until the concerned parties are out of the work premises.

As a business owner, team leader, or employee, what stand should you take? To talk politics at work, or not?

Is There an Upside?

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be heard. What will be wrong is not considering the consequences of your actions before they are executed. 

Left to us, there is almost no upside to discussing politics at work.

Even if your candidate is not a solid one (which is not our place to judge, anyway), your bias towards them might not let you see that. They share your ideologies and principles, so you see them as the shining light in an otherwise decaying political landscape. This leads to close-minded discussions where everyone is busy talking to each other, not to one another.

Political discussions are also not devoid of fiery tempers. 

If you are a Republican, for example, you might find yourself naturally drawn to other Republicans. You make friends with them quickly and can always grab a drink with them at the close of work. Another worker you have grown a liking to might identify as a Democrat, and you instantly start finding something wrong with them.

In that case, you have let politics cloud your better judgment. Instead of seeing them for who they are, you are merely judging them on their political beliefs. 

Trying to talk to such a co-worker about why they should become a Republican might be futile, as they might also make you see why being a Democrat is the way. No compromise is reached as neither of you wants to back down from their beliefs.

As we mentioned earlier, the deep-rooted beliefs that inform our political affiliations will surface at these points, making us drift away from others that do not share the same ideas.

Can Your Boss Ban Political Talk at Work?

Yes, they can.

The extent to which they can put a pin in political talks can be different with varying climes. In areas where there are laws protecting employees airing their political views in the workplace, bosses might not do much. But that does not render them handicapped either.

As you must know, politics is more than discussing who is contesting against who and who is most likely to win the next election.

It cuts across the subject of improving welfare, increasing the salary/ wage level, boosting development, and much more. All of these, and more, are tied to the single candidate running for office. In hindsight, such political topics also affect the place of work. Thus, it is not unreasonable to see why bosses might not like to have that talk happening on their premises.

Talking Politics Effectively at Work

Say you get the chance to discuss politics in an enabling environment. How do you even go about it?

These pointers will do you a lot of good:

  • Listen – don’t go into every conversation trying to make a ‘convert.’ Believe it or not, but you might have been nursing the wrong political ideas also. Give the other party a chance to talk and hear them out. Listen to their perspectives and weigh them logically. It takes a sound and professional mind to do so, so take this as a growth stage for yourself also.
  • Stay Logical – we are often emotional when talking about our convictions. Emotions will not get anything done. In fact, they sometimes weaken the argument and can make it go in the wrong direction also. Instead of trying to emotionally push/ lure/ blackmail your audience into buying into your ideas, present the facts, and let them see the logical aspect of things.
  • See through their lens – when trying to present ideas to your audience, don’t speak from your perspective. After listening to them, you should be able to approach things from their perspective instead. As a side note, this is not a call to use their words against them. You are merely re-framing their thoughts, as they have presented them, into your own narrative.
  • Find agreement – never leave any political talk on a heated level. No matter how different your thoughts are, everyone’s political stance tends towards finding betterment of the current situation. With that in mind, you can always find common grounds for agreement. End on an agreeing note, and you will have the chance to have yet another meaningful conversation in the future.

Toeing the Grey Line

There are whites and blacks to politics, even though many believe it’s all blurred. The grey line – where the blur happens – is the most sensitive in any discussion you have. Effective balancing of your thoughts and ideologies while not outrightly rubbishing your audience’s opinions will always lead to a fruitful political debate.