How Political Discussion Breeds Workplace Tension

The 2016 presidential election was a catalyst for the political feuds we still see today, but whether an election season has just ended or is on the cusp of beginning it should be avoided at all costs to discuss in the workplace.

Topics I consider to be taboo are based on religion, sex, and politics. Although you may feel a simple conversation is harmless, funny and non-offensive, it may come across as an insult to another person or listening bystander.

The consequences of engaging in an emotionally charged political conversation could damage both your personal and working relationships. This leads to a divide amongst peers, causing isolation. Not everyone shares the same background and ideologies therefore it is not up to you to change their perspective.

For those of you political champions who feel it necessary to engage in these debates at work and need your opinion heard, please take into account the negative effects it may have on your career.

To be an exceptional leader and advance your career, one must be well-rounded and respected in the workplace. A strong leader has the ability to effectively manage large groups of diverse employees who come from different social, economic and political backgrounds.

Partaking in political discussions, as mentioned earlier, can isolate you from coworkers and teammates. It can result in snubs, backstabbing and HR complaints, which will only hinder your advancement with the company. Effective leaders are able to create a communication culture that is open and engaging without creating a divide amongst coworkers.

Tips to keep in mind:

  • Check the HR policy
    • Often times a company’s HR policy will provide guidelines that prohibit discussing certain political topics or campaign swag from being visible. Before engaging in anything at work, double check these policies to save yourself an embarrassing trip to HR later!
  • Learn to Co-exist
    • You are not required to like or agree with anyone, but you are expected to work together with teammates without being disruptive.
  • Agree to Disagree
    • If you find yourself in a political debate at work, respectfully agree to have disagreements. Try to keep the conversation short and wrap it up as quickly as possible. You can respectfully end a conversation by simply saying “I respect your views and I value our working relationship so let’s end this conversation here.”
  • Don’t Let Your Guard Down
    • Last, but arguably most important. Creating work friendships and relationships is helpful, especially when you’re expected to be there over 40 hours a week. You could meet your best friend in the office, but do not let your guard down about work or political views. You could be only an argument away from an HR complaint.



One Comment

  1. I agree getting heated could be damaging but what happened to Diversity, building relationships, Real people management and engagement? It’s almost like avoiding difficult discussions with employees when it comes to performance because you are afraid to hurt someone’s feelings. I think the more I know about my employees and colleagues help me better relate to them in normal business situations but also during stressful time. Our personal lives impact our work life and we can’t always separate the two. Those political views I think also impact the way we engage with our companies and are loyal or not to the company.
    Plus many companies especially defense contractors want employees especially executives to participate in their PAC groups and how does that play into this feeling of political views.
    As a conservative most of my staff and colleagues believe that I always vote republican but that is not always the case.

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