Is it still possible to keep politics out of the office?
Your co-worker has had a skip in her step the past few weeks. You’ve disagreed over the years but you’ve agreed on one thing—to not talk politics at work. A client references the election, your co-worker smirks and your blood boils. You won’t make it four more days (let alone four years) in this environment.
The far-reaching implications of this particular election make it difficult to not talk politics in professional communication. It’s never been riskier (or more unavoidable) to talk about an election. More than a quarter of working Americans reported at least one negative outcome as a result of political discussions at work during this election season.
According to a VitalSmarts survey, 9 out of 10 people feel the 2016 elections are more polarizing and controversial than the 2012 elections and 1 in 4 say they’ve had a political discussion hurt a relationship. Ouch.
Talking politics at work right now is like walking into a minefield. It may be unavoidable, but these tips will optimize your chance of coming out unscathed:
Set the stage
Be intentional in setting up the conversation. Acknowledge the problem and invite your co-worker to have a discussion about it. Schedule it at a mutually convenient time (that may mean scheduling it in the future to let emotions settle). Set some parameters, which may include having another co-worker act as mediator.
Agree on ground rules
It’s your conversation and you should set some rules together. Discuss your desired outcome. Take breaks every 20 minutes. Decide to make eye contact. Pick a neutral space. This helps build a productive environment before you start talking about the tough stuff.
We need tools when discussing politics in any situation and this is especially true at work. According to Harvard Business Review, with these four simple tools you are 5 times more likely to be seen as diplomatic, 4 times more likely to be seen as likable, 140% more persuasive and 180% more likely to maintain relationships with others: 1. Focus on learning and be curious about their perspective, 2. Ask for permission to have the conversation, 3. Over-communicate your respect for the other person and 4. Focus on common ground by looking for areas of agreement.