Politics & Work: Why the Two Don't Mix

Before you talk about politics at work be mindful of how professional relationships with coworkers and customers may be impacted.

Before you talk about politics at work be mindful of how professional relationships with coworkers and customers may be impacted.

It seems everyone is talking about politics at work. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you are on, or even if you have an aisle,  politics run deep. Politics are personal, kind of like religion, and rarely do people convert to another belief system. Your career success is largely dependent upon the relationships you develop over the long haul and how you interact with and support others on the job. You don’t want to alienate others or do anything that threatens your business relationships. So, if Your Office Mom has any advice, it’s that work isn’t the place for political discussions. Here’s why:

Politics are polarizing

You already know this, but politics are polarizing.  Your comments may not offend a like-minded peer, manager, or even a client, but could be problematic if overheard by others with a different viewpoint, or if a conversation turns loud or argumentative or appears that way to bystanders.  And, if you make comments that throw all Trump supporters or all Democrats into this category or that category it can really piss people off.  Why? Because 1). it’s inaccurate  2). it’s insensitive and 3).  it’s just wrong.   Cringe worthy and biased comments may give you some short-term satisfaction,  but it won't do your career any favors.

Scan your environment

I’m not suggesting that you should be silenced, or that you should not be politically active. Not at all. I'm saying leave it out of the workplace. I realize some of you won't agree. if so, at least stop and scan your work environment before you bring politics into the mix. Also consider your motives and expected outcomes from speaking up in the first place. If you just want to argue or try to prove you're right, or morally superior, it's best to be quiet. But, if you feel reasonably sure it’s copacetic at your place of business, by all means, bring it. What I discovered over the years is that leaving politics out of it is the best strategy.  And, I think after your own thoughtful assessment, you’ll likely reach the same conclusion. Be aware of the do's and don'ts for talking politics at work and consider your behavior.

Watch your “likes”

According to a recent article by J.T. O’Donnell published by Inc., “Over 44 percent of US businesses are using social media to screen applicants. They are doing it to fill in gaps of information on an applicant's personality and character.”   Ms. O'Donnell goes on to state that making or liking bigoted comments can be a red flag, on the same scale as those about illegal drug use in the mind of employers.  A talent management professional I spoke with at a Fortune 100 company said he was concerned about the anger, hate and the choice of language in some posts. “It may be Facebook and Twitter, but to believe that recruiters don’t look at it is naïve. They want to hire people that are tolerant and play well with others.”

Politics are exhausting

Have you noticed how exhausting it is trying to explain your opinions and defend your views to people who don't share them? Besides, it should be obvious that it’s unlikely you’re going to change another person’s opinion anyway. Or, agree to disagree, in many instances (especially right now). And, getting stressed out during a political chit chat can affect your overall demeanor, potentially interfering with how you interact on entirely unrelated matters. You don't have time for that. You need to be at your best all the time when you are at work.

What to do

So, how do you avoid politics? Kindly tell your peers you’re going to stay out of it.  A simple statement, ”Oh, c’mon don’t try to drag me into this. I don’t talk politics at work (anymore).” And if others do, "Guys, can we tone down the politics, please?" and if that doesn't work, have a private sidebar to let a peer know it's distracting and ask that they keep it to themselves. If that doesn’t work, share this post.  Or, if someone won't shut it down,  is out of line, or offensive, speak to your manager or HR. Don’t be afraid to do the right thing. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for others.  

Granted, it's a time like no other. Emotions are running high, but don't let them get the best of you and jeopardize your career. As a young professional find an outlet for your political views and what's important to you. Take care of yourself. Be kind. Be tolerant. And, please share your tips on how to handle the stress and mess of it all.