Because of the 24-hour news cycle and social media, people are tuned in to politics now more than ever before. As a result, more conversations about politics are happening more even than in years past.
Those conversations are taking place in many different places, from the gas station to the grocery store, church, school, and everywhere in between – including the workplace.
Discussing politics in the workplace can create a tense environment. People are entitled to their opinions; however, when those opinions come up in the workplace and begin to create conflict, it leads to many different types of problems.
There are certain guidelines that need to be followed to prevent problems from occurring. While there is no definitive set of rules that people should follow when the topic of politics arises at the office, there are practices we can put in place to create a more welcoming environment for everyone.
Love First, Opinion Second
It’s okay to have a different opinion from the person you sit next to at work. In fact, it’s pretty common. But it’s important to remember that even if you disagree with your coworker, you should treat him or her with love and respect first.
No opinion, even political ones, should be as important as cultivating healthy relationships in your life, including with co-workers.
Speak with Respect
Co-workers have dignity and deserves to be treated with respect, no matter how much you disagree with them. You should especially show respect to the people with whom you spend so much of your time.
Remember: The person you disagree with at work likely has something in common with you, since you ended up working at the same place. You both have paths that led you to the same destination. Most of the time, we have a lot more than unites us than divides us. Keep that front and center, especially when you speak to the people around you that with whom you may or may not agree with.
Agree to Disagree
If a respectful discussion is impossible, that’s okay. Agree to disagree and choose another topic to discuss.
Sometimes, people’s political beliefs are deeply rooted in their values. Those values will usually not be changed over the course of several conversations.
Values arise from all the experiences people have had in their lives. While some of your coworkers, and your supervisors, might have values you disagree with, you cannot ask someone to change their values; because would you really want someone to ask you to change yours?
If you have a conversation with your coworkers, and you determine that the opinion you disagree with is rooted in their values, explore that and try to understand it. If the conversation is too tense to continue because of each of your opposing values, voice that and agree to disagree and move on.
Keep the Future iIn Mind
It’s easy to get caught up with the latest news story. Everyone’s talking about it, and everyone has an opinion. You want to make sure your voice is heard.
However, it’s important that you don’t sacrifice a good relationship over a news story that will be irrelevant in a day or two. You are entitled to have strong opinions and to care about the latest news, but you also need to keep the future in mind.
You want your coworkers and supervisors to think of you as someone they can trust. Help your workplace be an environment where people feel respected today and tomorrow, and keep the future in mind when you share your opinions.
At the end of the day, no matter how much you disagree with someone, you still have to work with that person – and you both are still members of the same work community.
Sometimes, to keep peace in the community, you should avoid speaking to the person you disagree with unless it’s about a work-related topic. You know your own limits, and you probably have a good sense of the other person’s limits, too. This is the definition of true maturity.
Sometimes, to keep peace in the community, you need to tell the person what your boundaries are and what you would prefer to discuss. Ask the person to treat you with the same respect that he or she would prefer.
Trust your instincts and remember that no matter what is happening at the national level, you are a member of your work community every single day.
Politics will always change, but you might be working in the same office as the person you disagree with for the next twenty years. When you treat that person with love and respect, you’re on your way to navigating a tense political climate with grace and making your own life easier.
2020, this election cycle, and our current climate have been and continue to be wild; there’s no doubt. But, that simply gives us even more of a reason to lead with love, respect others around us, and extend grace.
“Grace never seems fair until you need a little.” – Bob Goff