How to be polite when discussing workplace politics

We are halfway through the term and preparing for another presidential race. Probably, you can’t go five minutes without getting involved in the hustle and bustle of politics. When you turn on the TV, it seems like every other commercial is about a political candidate vying for your vote. When you click Facebookthe discussion on your wall is likely to feel like a drunken rambling of differing opinions about various candidates.

Even just driving to work, there are signs upon signs posted everywhere about who is the right person for the job. And then, once he gets to the workplace, the debates keep heating up. Everyone has an opinion, and wouldn’t you know it, everyone is right! Or so they say… um, he shouted!

I’m not a political genius, but I know what I believe in, and that’s where my desire to discuss politics ends. I know others will disagree with me, but that’s the beauty of living in America: We have the freedom to believe what we want and to say what we think. However, sometimes in the workplace, this freedom becomes very, very, soooo much out of reach.

So before you use your office desk as your personal soap box, check it out how to be polite in this arena with My top 3 quick and dirty tips for discussing politics at the office:

Tip no. Myth 1: No one trusts a chatterbox

Have you ever had an argument with someone when they suddenly transform into the Incredible Hulk and start yelling at you? Or do they feel right from the start that their argument could only be made clear by ranting and raving like a madman? And when it comes to politics, people seem to heat up especially quickly, which always turns into a confrontation about who can be the loudest. I don’t understand this tactic.

For example, earlier this year, my two colleagues were talking about the recent midterm elections, when, as you can imagine, they disagreed. What started out as a side conversation in a meeting quickly turned into a guy who did everything but hit another colleague over the head with a steel chair. He was so agitated that all he could do was yell at the top of his lungs, hurling curses as if he were at a fball stadio. Before our eyes, this mild-mannered, ordinary employee has turned into a chatterbox spewing nonsense because he let his emotions get the better of him.

Sure, you might be passionate about something (and not just politics) and that passion can come out in volume. But people tend to forget how silly they look when they turn a lively debate into a shouting match. There is a lot to be said for someone who can keep their composure in any situation, and honestly, I find the ability to remain calm and collected to be very underrated.

The moment you lose control, you lose all credibility. When this colleague started yelling like a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, no one in the office wanted to talk to him about politics or anything. It’s highly impolite to argue with your coworkers in general, but getting into a screaming match in front of a room full of coworkers is downright embarrassing!

Cartoon of two animals in a work cubicle

Tip no. 2: Plan discussion times

I have two wonderful sons, 14 and 10 who are kind, smart, funny and both know all the latest TikTok dances… ok, well, everyone has their flaws. However, when I think back to Maddy and Cole as kids, they weren’t like that understanding common house rules. When my daughter asked for a bedtime snack and we say, “No,” she’s upset, but she tells us, “I know, bedtime isn’t snack time.” And this is all. No more discussions. With a small child, there are set times for certain things like snacking, watching TV, playing games, etc. And unfortunately, sometimes even adults have to remember that there is a time and a place for everything. Like the guy who wears his biker pants to Casual Friday, she needs to be told “now isn’t the best time.”

The office kitchen tends to be the hot spot for political discussions. Someone says, “Can you believe what so-and-so said last night?” And before the popcorn finishes popping, two colleagues have already done three rounds of “I’m right, you’re an idiot!” Needless to say, just like there are right times for my daughter to grab a snack or play outside, there are absolutely right times to discuss your political views. And I strongly believe that the office is NOT the place for political discussion, or religious for that matter.

If colleagues feel that they duty talk about politics, so they only have to do it at set times. When is this? Well, it’s up to the big boss to find out. I can only tell you when it is not a good time: in a meeting, on a conference call with clients, at a party, on a group outing, at a baby shower.

Similarly, political discussion should not be forced upon others who are not prepared – or share a desire – to discuss the topic. When I go to the refrigerator to get my lunch, I don’t want to feel like I have to show my voter ID or be armed with arguments to support my political beliefs. It’s stressful and pointless.

Tip no. 3: Eliminate the topic altogether

The best way to avoid having political turmoil in the office is to simply not let the conversations get started in the first place. At my friend’s office, his boss was so superstitious about his favorite sports team winning the Super Bowl, that every time anyone brought it up, they had to put $1 in a fish tank as punishment. The money raised would go to a pizza party during the game. This wasn’t a ploy to make employees pay for pizza—it was a clever way to avoid a topic the boss had declared off limits during work hours. It’s a brilliant idea!

Not only did he raise money for what ended up being a huge pizza party (apparently there were a lot of lawbreakers), but he also served to keep the peace among the employees. Politics isn’t like the elephant in the room (no pun intended) – it’s not something that needs to be discussed. It has nothing to do with your job (unless you work in an election office) and therefore can be avoided during working hours. It also always makes people nervous and can become a distraction.

That’s why I’d just make it off limits. And if you talk about politics (or anything else declared taboo) when you shouldn’t, then you should be paying a fee (just some government humor for you). Use the pizza bowl idea if needed. I mean, who doesn’t like pizza? But if someone can’t follow the rules about not talking about politics at work, then it’s time for the boss to have a closed-door discussion about proper office etiquette. Call me if so. I’m having fun that discussion.

Got a good story about an improper political discussion at the office? Post all the details on Modern Manners Guy Facebook page.

As always, if you have another question or question about manners how to be polite in a particular situation, Looking forward to hearing from you . Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDTand, of course, tune into the podcast for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

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