Party Pooper

The Office

Dear DW,

Is it OK to talk about politics at work?

Signed, The Debater

Dear The Debater,

It’s probably best if you don’t.

For starters, some employee handbooks explicitly advise against talking politics in the office.

As election season gets into full swing, it’s a good idea to find out what’s considered acceptable in your workplace. If your organization has a policy in place, you should absolutely avoid political conversations at work.

Even if your company has no official policy, it’s prudent to steer clear of such discussions.

“It can become a high-risk conversation that can make people uncomfortable,” says Sherry Sims, founder of Black Career Women’s Network.

“It can lead to human resources getting involved if something that was said during the conversation makes him or her uncomfortable.”

For instance, saying you think a particular candidate is too old to be president could lead to the perception that you have a bias against older workers.

Here’s another potential downside: you may learn things about a coworker’s political beliefs that you wish you hadn’t. This could put a strain on your working relationship with that person, making it harder to stay productive and focused during your interactions.

And let’s face it: even for the most emotionally intelligent among us, when the subject is politics, passions can take over. “Not everyone will be able to agree to disagree,” says Sims. You could get drawn into exchanges that are more heated than is appropriate for work, which could make you appear emotional and unprofessional.

If a coworker tries to draw you into a political discussion, you can lightly say what many people tell their family members at Thanksgiving—“Sorry, I don’t talk about religion or politics here.”

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