It’s been a tense couple of months thanks to the election. With a 24-hour news cycle about Trump’s Cabinet picks and Twitter rants, it doesn’t look like political coverage is slowing down anytime soon. One tricky place to discuss politics is at the office, to the point where a lot of professionals would say to avoid talking about it altogether. While that would be great, it’s natural that we want to talk about the latest SNL sketch or vent about what is happening in the world. In the process, we may learn that we feel wildly differently from the guy who sits at the cubicle next to us. When that happens, there are a few ways to cope so you can still have a working relationship.
Double Check The Company Policy
Before you even consider engaging in political conversations, you may want to double-check your company policies regarding political discussion. Keep in mind that it can actually be legal to be fired for your political opinion, even those that are expressed outside of work. Check your state laws for what protections you have both at work and activities you do outside work. However, some political discussion is always allowed. The National Labor Relations Act bars employers from prohibiting discussions about workplace conditions. This means so long as you’re talking about why you think a certain candidate is better for you as a worker, you can’t be fired. Employers also can ban political paraphernalia unless it is union insignia, such as IATSE for Hillary.
Have Conversations In Person
It’s tempting to fire off a link in an “I told you so” manner when someone’s candidate does something ridiculous, but it can come off passive aggressive. Even if you are genuinely just sending information, it’s difficult to read tone over email or text. The Society for Human Resource Management suggests keeping interactions in-person. Besides, people are more likely to be empathetic and tolerant when they are talking to someone face-to-face than when they are hiding behind a keyboard.
Pick Your Battles
You probably have a good to strong idea of how you feel about a variety of political issues. When people in the office are chatting about politics where you disagree, ask yourself if it’s something you feel strongly about. Where you may feel very passionately about the Dakota Access Pipeline, perhaps it’s not worth your time to debate California’s proposition on making porn stars wear condoms (yes, that was a thing). The Harvard Business Review talked with Liane Davey, a business author, who advised to weigh the consequences of each political conversation before you dive in. She points out you always have a risk of hurting a relationship, so make sure the issues that you are risking that for are a priority to you.
Learn More By Asking Questions
We naturally make assumptions about other people. After all, most of us assumed that women weren’t going to show up for Trump, but white women surprised everyone when they overwhelmingly supported him at the polls. Asking questions in political discussions does two things. First, it helps you understand where the person falls on the political spectrum. Second, once you know where they fall, you are able to learn why they feel the way they do instead of assuming. Finding out the root cause of why people feel the way they do allows you to understand the other side and allows you to find common ground. You’ll need to identify that stuff for the next time an election rolls around so you know how to convince people based on what they value and not what you assume they care about.
Don’t Allow Discrimination
Unfortunately this election has been ugly and gave a more prominent voice to a lot of violent, racist groups in America. If someone says something discriminatory, you absolutely should not allow it. Most federal discrimination laws make it difficult for an employer to retaliate against you if you go to HR with a report. Make sure you write down details of the incident, including names and times, and make a copy of any evidence. This situation often happens when you are not a part of the group being discriminated against, like a racial slur said around a group of whit people. Understand that you make the workplace less hostile by standing up for others.
SHARE with your friends (or co-workers) that may beed a gentle reminder about being political in the office!