Politics in the Workplace

Every company is going to have a different culture as it relates to our nation’s politics… some companies may even encourage discussion from corporate management down to employees, others will hear political discussions only from the union headquarters down to members, and some companies will try to avoid the topic in any “official” capacity at all costs. No matter what the culture is at your organization, opinions can run very hot and the topic can evoke a lot of emotion. The desire to sway political opinion with employees and coworkers can be very tempting. If you feel compelled to discuss your favorite political candidate or initiative, here is some advice: 1) limit discussions to non-work time; 2) always respect the privacy of others; 3) understand and appreciate the diversity of your workplace; and 4) learn how to politely “agree to disagree.”  It would be very easy to advise, “don’t ever discuss politics in the workplace,” but that isn’t the reality. The subject comes up at the very least in casual conversation.

So, what if someone wants to know how you are going to vote? What if someone continues to discuss political beliefs that make you uncomfortable? How do you handle the coworker or boss that continually tries to get you involved in political discussion?  First of all, remember that it is your right to cast a private and independent ballot. Although politics can foster conversations about our differences and that is often a good thing, you don’t have to share your opinion with anyone. You don’t have to share how you will vote. Handling these conversations in a polite way is best. Use some diplomacy and tact. Below are some effective phrases (especially if said with a smile) to handle those inquiries that you may find intrusive:

• I don’t like to discuss politics
• My mom doesn’t even know how I vote
• My parents taught me to avoid the subjects of politics and religion
• My big focus is on getting my work done/this project/this meeting topic
• Sorry, I need to get back to work… no time for politics
• I’d rather not discuss politics on company time (offer to discuss at lunch or after work if you want to)
• I’m burned out on politics after all the television advertisements last night

Are Workplace Complaints Driving You Crazy?

Do you feel like your workforce is spending too much time whining? Consider this quote from Colin Powell:

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

Certainly, there are some employees that spend too much time focusing on the negative.  And, chances are if you have some of those constant complainers in your organization, they might be driving you crazy. But, think about this; if you’re not hearing complaints, you are not in the loop. So we suggest taking a strategic approach.

You are in a management role because you know how to get things done. So when an employee brings a problem to you, your first inclination may be to solve it. But, hold on… when you solve the problem, it isn’t doing you or the employee any good. Your first response should be along the lines of “how do you think we can solve this problem?”  By asking this question you are setting the stage for an exchange of ideas that will help you, the employee, and your organization. You don’t need to take their advice, but once the whiners know that you are going to ask for a solution they may consider their complaints in a different light. Plus, you might be presented with a solution you wouldn’t have thought of.