Politics at Work: Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

If you're anything like me, you check your favorite news site 27 times a day to catch up on the latest campaign trail barbs and gaffes. You schedule your work and social life around the debates. And you talk about the presidential horse race every chance you get -- up to and including public restrooms.

But no matter how many twists and turns the economy and election polls take, there are some people you're better off not talking campaign politics with.

Exhibit A: Your in-laws.

Exhibit B: Your boss.

Looking for career advice? Click here to send Michelle your questions and they might end up as a topic for her next column.

While I can't help with the in-laws, I do have some thoughts on talking political turkey at work: Reveal which candidate you're backing to a boss with opposing views, and you risk being penalized on the job by a petty partisan. It's not worth it in my book.

Yet, according to a 2008 survey of U.S. employees conducted by human resources firm Adecco USA, 50 percent of workers openly talk politics on the job. Among Millennials -- the youngest generation of workers -- that number jumps to 61 percent.

But addressing the election in the workplace is sometimes unavoidable, especially if you work in an ultra-casual small office, or your manager is politically, shall we say, exuberant. So, what should you do if you find yourself staring down a political debate with your boss or another colleague? Put that banner down and read on.

Turn the Political Tables

Forty-seven percent of respondents to the Adecco survey said they listened to political banter in the workplace without sharing their own viewpoints.

But how do you stay out of the fray when that manager with the Obama bumper sticker on their car or McCain action figure on their desk is egging you on about your presidential pick?

"When you're in that kind of situation, often it's useful to just ask questions," said Kathleen Reardon, professor of management at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.

Responding with, "So, you've made up your mind?" and "What convinced you of your decision?" can buy you a little time, suggested Reardon, who has authored four books on navigating the workplace, including "It's All Politics: Winning in a World Where Hard Work and Talent Aren't Enough."

If the big cheese insists on turning the conversation back to you, plead the fifth and explain that you'd rather keep your politics to yourself, Reardon advised.

Or try a little humor. Saying something like, "Will my answer affect my performance review?" should diffuse the situation in a jiffy.

Agree to Disagree

If the cat's already out of the bag and everyone from your manager to the mail room guy knows which candidate you're backing, you have two choices: You can play along. Or you can smile, nod and zip it.

When it comes to talking election politics with his boss, Ben Karl, a publicist in San Francisco, is a fan of both tactics.

"I'm a huge Obama supporter and my boss is a diehard McCain supporter," Karl said. "My boss is a very smart guy so I really enjoy getting his perspective on the election. Neither of us lets this get in the way of our relationship. We exercise the utmost respect for each other and our opinions."

But even friendly colleagues have their limits.

Karl, who can "get really passionate" about politics, said he avoids letting discussions with his boss get too heated.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...