It used to be expected that people would leave their political views at the door when they came to work. Times have changed. According to a survey carried out by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), over half of the American workforce have heard more political talk in the office compared to a few years ago, with only around a quarter of them thinking these discussions are appropriate.
Politics can be divisive and emotional, which makes it a difficult subject matter at work where we’re supposed to be dispassionate and “professional”. With that in mind, how should we deal with political talks at work?
We have four strategies for you right here that come from Harvard-trained mediator Benjamin Cook.
Try to see where the other person is coming from
The key is to see the other as a person with hopes, fears, and challenges. If you don’t know what those are, you might need to start by finding out. Who knows, your coworker’s logic may make more sense —at least to them — than is obvious at first glance.
Don’t say, “I understand, but…”
Cook says that no one has ever felt understood when someone else says that. On the contrary, we feel the other person emphatically doesn’t understand, and we brace ourselves to be contradicted.
Put down your fists
Just because we don’t agree with someone’s political convictions doesn’t mean we have to get defensive and fight back. If you don’t get worked up, the other might not as well, helping to keep the conversation honest and civil.
If this still isn’t working and you can’t ignore the political views being conveyed, walking away can sometimes be more important than fighting back. You still have to work with them after all.
Find common ground
Odds are that you and your colleague (or your boss) will never see eye-to-eye on politics, and you’ll just have to agree to disagree. That doesn’t mean you can’t get along. Find something you both like such as a sport or a hobby and focus on that rather than politics.