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

Workplace Etiquette: Wash Your Hands!

There are many articles, blogs, and books written about etiquette in the workplace. Cubicles, kitchens, break rooms and board rooms are frequently covered. And, for good reason; there are a lot of inconsiderate slobs out there and maybe you work with one or two of them. This blog is about bathroom etiquette in the workplace. Yes, the bathroom! It is the season for colds and flu, and I am sure that you have discussed or read about the lack of hand washing on the way out of the bathroom. That was the motivation for writing this.

Did you know there is an organization called “The International Center for Bathroom Etiquette?” Really, there is and they are not afraid to tackle this sensitive topic. If you are a manager (or in human resources) chances are, you have been asked to handle difficult situations. Situations involving the workplace bathroom are probably at the top of the list of things you would rather not address. So, check out this great website for advice www.icbe.org.

In the meantime, “wash your hands” and try to prevent the spread of germs!

Written By: Ellen R. Charlebois, Senior Partner