Political Talk Hotspots and Not-spots

The political climate is hot right now, as are people’s opinions. It seems that everywhere you turn, someone is expressing their political views, whether it’s on Facebook, a blog, on the streets, or at the dinner table. People have the right to speak their mind, have differing opinions, and even share those with each other in a mature way. However, with rights come responsibilities, and there might be a time and place for such talk. Let’s explore one potential “not-spot” for political talk in particular.

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The Workplace: A Safe Zone for Talking Politics?

Emotions are strong when it comes to politics; topics like government policy, strategy and social issues get the blood boiling. Because we spend half of our lives with our co-workers, it’s only natural for us to feel the need to express what we’re passionate about to our officemates. Political views can branch off into several areas of our lives, affecting how we see and react to the world, and thus, these subjects can be at the forefront of our thoughts several times a day. It’s hard to keep in, right?

But, maybe sometimes we should.

Some people may side with open communication about politics in the workplace, mainly for the goal of better understanding one another. Others feel that this could be risky. Sure, in a perfect world, healthy and open political discussion anywhere would be a good thing, but often, there’s too much risk involved. Instead, it’s possible that such talk can become emotional and cause division or even discourse among individuals in one’s place of employment.

Political Discussion: Fear vs. Respect

The well-known online analytical tool Peakon recently conducted a survey, asking 5,000 workers how comfortable they felt voicing their political opinions in front of their coworkers. Results varied slightly depending on party affiliation, gender, and geographical location, but overall, 34 percent of Americans claimed to be hesitant to talk politics at work.

It’s easy to see how, in such an emotionally-driven election and political climate this year, this would be the case. To start, core political values and beliefs in this election have been all over the spectrum, and company leaders should definitely instill a culture and atmosphere that encourages acceptance of one another and embrace the differences between coworkers. At the same time and for the same reason, however, keeping the passionate political talk to a minimum might be wise, for the sake of maintaining peace and respect.

The topics are indeed controversial, and since the workplace is meant for a common productive goal, it might be best to keep the eyes on the prize. Not only can such discussion quickly turn hostile and disruptive, but it can also be distracting. With constant political stimuli coming at us from all angles, it can distract us from our work at hand, affecting our own careers and the company as a whole.

Keep it simple: Respect or Deflect

Your approach can be quite simple: live by the rule of “Respect and/or Deflect.” If you know that you find it hard to contain anger, control reactions and avoid what can be political bullying in any way, maybe you should find coping mechanisms to replace your need for political banter. Deflecting can be your best method; meaning, avert the conversation elsewhere or simply be open about your hesitance. If you must discuss, keep reminding yourself of your top priority: be respectful, and keep a mindset of sharing rather than convincing.

Regardless of the approach that you choose, it’s important to remember the guiding principle, “With freedom comes responsibility”.

How have you handled political discussions at your workplace? Click here to leave a comment.

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