We’re still more than a year away from another presidential election, but plenty of candidates, pundits, and even your coworkers are making their political opinions known. As Midwesterners we’re taught it’s polite to avoid certain topics like politics and religion; however, it may seem unavoidable nowadays when everyone is constantly plugged into the news and sharing their political opinions on social media.
If you’re unsure what to do the next time your coworker asks you about 2020 or the latest trending topic, there are a few tactics you can use to navigate the workplace.
Change the subject
If you’re not comfortable speaking about politics with a coworker or your boss, politely change the subject to another topic. Allow the speaker to finish his or her thought and nod politely. If the coworker presses you on your opinion, say you need to get back to work. If necessary, politely but firmly say you aren’t comfortable discussing politics at work.
This may be especially difficult if you don’t agree with what the other person is saying. You may worry that by not pushing back, you are agreeing with your coworker’s opinions. You can respond thoughtfully if you are comfortable (more on that below), but your priority should be successfully completing your work and not educating your coworker. If you don’t usually respond during discussions, your coworker will likely take the hint.
If you’re comfortable, share your thoughts
Some people enjoy discussing politics and current events, and your coworker may be looking to have a thought-provoking conversation. You may not change minds, but you will likely learn interesting insights along the way. If that sounds like something that appeals to you, feel free to join. Remain respectful and stick to the topic at hand without criticizing your coworker as a person.
Don’t ever let a thoughtful discussion become a heated argument. Even if you and your coworker like the back-and-forth, you may be making other coworkers uncomfortable and creating an environment that’s unsafe for employees to share their opinions openly for fear of angry exchanges. Save the big debate for after-work happy hour.
Talk to HR or your manager
If someone is saying something that you feel is harassment or a threat, you should be able to report it to your human resources manager or supervisor. Harassment is when a coworker creates an environment that is hostile or intimidates another coworker based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability sexual orientation or genetic information. It’s no longer just talking politics when the work environment is unsafe.
Find a better fit
If you feel like your politics don’t fit with your coworkers, or if you’re not aligned with your employer’s mission, it might be time for another job. Seek an employer who does work you can get excited about. Research organizations ahead of time to see what you can learn about their workplace culture.