Fire up a political debate if you want to see desks, chairs, and people flying through the office. Well, maybe not that extreme, but you get the idea. People’s beliefs are rooted so deep, it can lead to conflict, isolation, and productivity-loss.
The pressure cooker
Anyone who has read the news in the last months (or years) knows that our society is deeply divided on a few key elements of present day politics. There are certain tensions in the air, which can spark at any given moment. Exactly because of this, you should be extra careful around political statements. The workplace is usually a mixture of different backgrounds, beliefs, religions, and world views. It’s a close reflection of our actual society, which can serve as a conductor for debate. It’s easy to lose track of personal boundaries in the heat of the moment, which in return, may be very offensive to some.
One of the potential dangers of office debates is letting political opinions influence professional behaviour. You may find out things about co-workers you didn’t want to know. Because of this you might end up avoiding or confronting colleagues and co-workers. And once you’ve found out someone’s voting habits, you might even start disliking someone personally. People have the habit of excluding, or even alienating those with different opinions or overly opinionated people. It’s important to stay as neutral as possible, but letting politics get in the way is very easy. Just talking about political viewpoints can destroy entire families, one can only imagine the devastating effect if might have in the workplace.
The A-team is better than the B-team
A research shows that people are already careful with politics in the office. About 54% of people stated they avoid office politics altogether, which might be for the best as 18% said interpersonal tensions have risen after talking politics, and 10% said work quality suffers because of it. As soon as tensions become too much, a member of the team might decide it’s time to quit, or be set aside by the others because it affects the work quality in a negative manner. A good business often depends on teamwork and its qualities. Don’t let politicians destroy your team’s dynamics.
How should politics be handled?
If the stakes are high because elections are coming up, there’s something big in the news, or you are absolutely sure it won’t affect your work relations, and you feel the need to discuss pressing matters: make absolutely sure the people you are discussing with are the right people for doing so.
Be open-minded towards other point of views, and make sure your conversational partner has the same open-mindedness. On the other hand, don’t assume everyone believes or should believe the same as you do. That’s not what open-minded means.
No matter what, let others finish what they need to say, even if you disagree. The government shapes a big part of our lives, so never underestimate the impact it has. Listen to what others have experienced, don’t make random assumptions. This is a huge point of conflict. Downplaying another’s experiences or ignoring their concerns can be extremely patronizing, realising this can help keeping the peace.
Lastly, make sure to get your facts straight. It’s important to avoid using fake information or to get your point across, otherwise people won’t take you serious.
Use your head
Of course everyone is free to discuss whatever he or she wants to. That’s what democracy is all about. And yet, it’s a good idea to think about what you can and cannot say at the office. Some things might backfire, even though it’s the truth. It still just really depends on the kind of people you have to deal with. Especially in international relations, politics are often considered a no-go area, so be careful. Some will eagerly discuss current events, others will steer clear of it. And that’s perfectly fine.