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December 6, 2017

Your Top Tips for Surviving When Politics Heats Up the Office

Ian Moss

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Politics. Love it or hate it, you can't ignore it – especially in these turbulent times. Catalan independence from Spain. U.S. President Donald Trump's next nugget on North Korea. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's daily declaration on the benefits of Brexit.

Whether your political views are red, blue or orange, it's hard not to be stirred into a reaction by some or all of the above. Add to that 24/7 news coverage across the globe and it's a wonder that any of us can contain the urge to voice our opinions.

But does political discussion have a place at work? Is discourse at the water cooler to be encouraged or discouraged? And what should we do if things get a bit heated?

Tricky. But I guess the answer is a bit like politics itself. Slightly open-ended. A matter of opinion. Moderation and tolerance are key. Everyone is entitled to their point of view.

Favorite Political Points

Clearly, it would be wrong to take up too much company time debating our favorite political points. Yet most of us spend many hours with our co-workers, so it's hard to just pretend that certain subjects don't exist.

Some people are happy simply getting on with their work and going home. Others like to share a point of view when asked. Then there's the team member who thinks that she should be standing for Senate…

So, we put the question of politics to our #MTtips friends and followers on social media. The general feeling among Mind Tools learners is that politics should be avoided if at all possible. And it certainly stands to reason that if we steer clear of the subject, then things won't get heated in the first place!

Facebook follower Stephanie Williamson sets some very clear boundaries. "The office is a professional place. Therefore, we should de-personalize it. Understand people and their motives, but also work collaboratively to achieve win-win situations for all!"

Discretion is the Better Part of Valor

For Chetan Agarwal, discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to the P-word. "It is bound to pop up as we are all humans. The best way to deal with it is to make people aware of politics' destructive consequences and educate them and ourselves to not get tempted into arguments.

"If someone is trying to bait you into such a conversation, politely nod and ignore the argument. This is one of the practical ways I found to be useful, especially considering that I am highly opinionated and political myself!"

Sofia Ernst Diaz is pretty clear on where she stands. "Politics and religion are not topics to bring to a conversation at work. If that happens, change the subject." And Rhonda Voyles reinforces that point with some vigor. "Ban religious and political talk at the workplace if you have to. (I'm not saying the government should, just the employers)," she says.

Paul Foreman takes a more philosophical line of reasoning. "Never lose sight of the fact that a team is oneness. Nothing should divide a team, especially politics."

Over on Twitter, Caroline Gourlay‏ says, "Keep reinforcing the things you do have in common. I teamed up with an employment lawyer to write about this a while back. See what you think." That's a nice blog post, Caroline.

Avoid Such Talk!

Md Saifullah Rizvi says, "We are  living in very polarized world. The best way to deal with politics is to avoid indulging in such talk. A political debate also must be discouraged. I believe office premises must be apolitical and secular. Current affairs can be discussed under strict guidelines!"

Our LinkedIn followers came out in force to air their views. Yasir Shoukat says, "I enjoy being neutral with opposing arguments!"

David V. adopts this strategy with argumentative types: "I ignore them and get to work and if it gets heated I ask them to leave the work area or take it outside," he says.

For our last three responses, the question we posed didn't mention politics specifically but instead simply talked about "heated conversations." The answers are still relevant to politics, though, and are well worth sharing.

Jeyam Kannan says, "Guide the arguing people out of the place where the argument is taking place and take them to some other place that's more soothing to them (politely suggest they go to a restaurant or a temple)."

"Let's be clear on something," says Yasir Shoukat. "No one is wrong! Just explain what you think, but do not try to impose your views."

And finally, we had some wise words from James Choles"Recognize that things are getting heated, articulate that ('Is it me, or are things getting a bit tense?'), then take a break. Go back to whatever you’re talking about later."


If you have any further thoughts or tips on the subject of political discussion in the workplace, let us know in the comments section, below.



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