I am not talking about the usual meaning of office politics this time. With the Presidential election just past, there was a lot of conversation in the workplace, sometimes heated, about the choice of party or candidate. I read a Facebook posting from a friend saying that she hoped some of her friendships would last past the election. So can you or should you ban talk of politics in the workplace?
Everyone seems to have had very strong feelings about this election and were more than willing to share their strong opinions about it, sometimes becoming quite nasty. As confident as one feels that their thoughts are the correct thoughts, the “opposition” feels just as confident. If you are the manager of the group, it’s even more important that you keep your opinions to yourself. Employees can feel intimidated if they don’t agree and it can be very uncomfortable for them.
I remember when I first moved to Chicago and one of the first things my new boss asked me was “Sox or Cubs?”. I was asked that question more often than “what’s your sign?” I didn’t have an opinion one way or another, but seeing his office walls covered with Sox memorabilia, I made the wise choice to be a Sox fan. I have observed much teasing back and forth about the teams and it seems harmless but political talk is another matter.
So as a manager or even as an employee, what can you do in this situation? As a Manager, I would make it an agenda item at the weekly staff meeting. You do have regular staff meetings, don’t you? You can remind the group that we need to appreciate that everyone is welcome to his/her own opinion about politics and we need to keep the discussion out of the workplace in respect for those opinions. Remind them the two topics that should never be discussed in the workplace or at a cocktail party are religion and politics. As an employee, if you don’t want to respond or participate in a political discussion, politely tell others that you feel political opinions are personal and shouldn’t be discussed at work. Try to change the subject to the latest football game or better yet, get back to work.