Can You Respectfully Discuss Politics in the Workplace?

By | 2017-01-13T13:42:29+00:00 September 12th, 2008|Categories: Respectful Workplace|Tags: |2 Comments

“The hot-button issues of politics can lead to inflamed tempers that can impede your productivity—and possibly, your progress.

Who do you think should be the next President of the U.S.? John McCain? Barack Obama? Jon Stewart? Regardless of who gets elected, there is no question that this is the most diverse and exciting campaign in many years.

Given what is at stake in the election and the historic nature of this year’s race, it is tempting to discuss the issue at work with those colleagues we’re accustomed to chatting with and hashing out so many things. Yet there are very good reasons why we shouldn’t.

In a recent post on Anderson Cooper’s 360 Blog, Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D, the Ethics Guy for businessweek.com examined the ramifications of talking politics at work. He ranked politics, along with sex, money and religion as one of the most controversial topics in the workplace.

Like our values, our political beliefs hold meaningful significance, often guiding our behaviors and decisions. Imagine you are at work, discussing the candidates with colleagues, or even your boss,  when it turns into a discussion about the issues at stake. Here’s Weinstein’s example:

“Let’s say that you and your boss are arguing the respective merits of your preferred candidates. Unbeknownst to you, your boss is very passionate about the abortion issue, but your candidate—and you—hold a view that is contrary to your boss’s. As much as your boss might strive to respect your right to have and express your opinion, can you be sure that s/he won’t hold your position against you when, say, your performance review comes around? If you are the boss in question, can you be certain that your subordinate’s political beliefs won’t affect your decision to give her a raise or even keep her on?”

Should we engage in “hot button” conversations (politics, religion, abortion rights, gay rights, racism, etc.) at work, or relegate them for exploration/debate to our personal time?

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About the Author:

Melanie Sklarz
Melanie Sklarz was the the web content and social media coordinator as well as the lead blog writer for the RespectfulWorkplace.com website. She has a MA in Women’s Studies from the Ohio State University. For more information, visit melaniesklarz.com.

2 Comments

  1. Chris Brown September 17, 2008 at 6:04 am

    As an owner of a small business, I find that it’s important for me to set the tone.

    Because the election information is so prevelant, it’s almost like the elephant in the room not to mention it. Is it better for me to bring it up to say let’s not bring it up? Or just let the conversations naturally enfold?

    In my opinion it’s a slippery slope once the “hot button” conversations get started, but how do you stop them from getting started/escalating without seeming like a sensor?

    thanks!
    Chris Brown
    Marketing Resources & Results

  2. Chris Brown September 17, 2008 at 6:05 am

    I mean censor!

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