How To Navigate Politics in the Workplace
Politics can seem like a dirty word when used in the workplace. Like an expletive, dropping liberal or conservative into what was mundane office chit-chat, is now met with bulging eyes, slack jaws, and quick retreats. Usually, people adopt the don’t ask don’t tell approach to navigate politics, but that’s easier said than done. Here are a few do’s and don’ts that can spare you a pink slip or a black eye.
Do: Play by the Book
First things first, check your employee handbook, many offices have guidelines that prohibit wearing political clothing, bringing campaign material into the workplace, or even discussing politics with coworkers. Telling a co-worker that you can’t talk about politics because it’s against company policy is a built-in excuse that allows you to avoid the conversation at all cost. If you are the co-worker itching to bring up politics, know that you’re putting your job in jeopardy.
Don’t: Engage, If Possible
The best advice for navigating politics is to not engage. It’s very tempting to voice your opinion about your favorite candidate but beware, there are landmines at every turn in a politically charged conversation. Honestly, if the conversation is avoidable, save yourself the headache and avoid it.
Do: Know your Co-Workers
Every office has that one person that’s very passionate about their option. While it may not be the best idea to engage with Mr.Super Fan, some of your other co-workers may not be so aggressive. If every now and then, the nice guy in the cubical next to you says ” hey, catch the news last night? this election is picking up”; there is no need to avoid eye contact or suddenly get very busy. Sometimes people will engage in benign conversation that’s not meant to intimidate or make you uncomfortable. In those situations, calmly answering is okay.
We can all sense when a conversation is going sour. What was once witty banter slowly morphs into pursed lips and furrowed brows. It is important to register the non- verbal cues of discontent when talking with someone, it will give you a clue when to back off. Knowing when to walk away is of the utmost importance in a workplace environment. You have to remember that other things take precedence over your argument. Management will not take too kindly to heated discussions but they may favor the person who walks away first.
All in all, navigating workplace politics is much like driving a car: obey the laws, steer clear of the road when possible, beware of other drivers, and don’t incite road rage. Those rules sound simple enough but even the best of us have accidents. Politics is a heated discussion any way you take it, do your best to avoid the subject when possible and if you must engage be tactful.