In today’s political climate, talking about politics at work is often a tricky endeavor. Jokingly, many etiquette books will tell readers to avoid the five B’s: booze, boys, Bible, bill, and Biden. In other words, avoid discussing substances, romantic relationships, religion, finances, or politics while in polite company, as these can all be polarizing subjects. Unfortunately, some coworkers may have a difficult time remaining silent on these issues. For those who choose to participate in these types of conversations while at work, keep the following guidelines, according to a top employment lawyer, in mind:
Avoid controversial topics. While many people are comfortable discussing the state of the economy or other general, non-polarizing political topics, airing personal views on abortion or gun control could quickly take the conversation in an inappropriate direction. Remember, even for those who are comfortable discussing these topics, coworkers may not be. They might also have different opinions on the same subjects, which could spark an uncomfortable workplace dynamic. These situations are best avoided.
Ensure the workplace aligns with personal values. The best way to avoid uncomfortable situations in the workplace is to ensure the company aligns with the employee’s personal values from the very beginning. People tend to work with similar people, so when seeking new employment, learn as much as possible about potential coworkers and the company’s values. For example, if the organization is a Christian company, will their practices interfere with that of an employee who practices a different religion? As another example, if the office is right-leaning and the employee tends towards the middle or left, will this environment negatively impact performance? These are all questions to consider before joining a business, or when evaluating whether or not to remain at a current place of employment.
Do not initiate political conversations. While such conversations might be appropriate outside of the office or at a different company, the office is not the place for such discussions. However, some coworkers may not realize this. If such conversations are occurring, attempt to avoid inserting personal opinions. These types of discussions can easily get heated, resulting in hurt feelings and an uncomfortable workplace environment.
However, when conversations may be a part of office culture, it can be difficult to avoid them during election season, for example. In such cases, if the topic is unavoidable, prepare a few statements that can be comfortably interjected that are inoffensive and uncontroversial. Attenuate responses so that they do not sound argumentative, and refrain from openly disagreeing with a coworker.
Learn both sides of an issue. Though everyone is entitled to their own opinions on any topic, it can often help to remain neutral in workplace discussions. The best way to do this is to maintain control and prepare for such situations by subscribing to or receiving alerts from two different news media sources, preferably one conservative and one liberal. This way, balanced news coverage is received and the employee can confidently mention commentary from both right and left-leaning figures, depending on who is participating in the conversation.
Learn about local issues. Though local politics may not be as exciting of a topic, odds are the issues are probably more relevant to the workplace. So, when a conversation turns to politics, read the flow of conversation to ascertain an appropriate time to interject. Then, segue into a discussion of a local issue that relates to the more controversial topic. Not only will the employee appear well-informed, but coworkers will be grateful for saving them from another embarrassing discussion that put everyone in the office on edge.
Should a discussion get heated or otherwise create discomfort with the direction a conversation is headed, shut it down. Simply walk away. If the workplace environment continues to remain uncomfortable, consider consulting with a top employment lawyer or an employment attorney near you. An employment lawyer can advise on the specific situation and suggest next steps to help resolve the issue. An experienced lawyer has the knowledge, know-how and expertise to advise the client on how to bring these issues to the employer as well as how to protect themselves from legal recourse.
To learn more about how to discuss political issues in the workplace, contact a top employment lawyer today to schedule a no-obligation consultation.