Politics at the Water Cooler: Should You Engage?

October 22, 2016

Once upon a time, it was considered rude to discuss politics in an open forum.  But this year, with the constant barrage of insults and scandals from both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, political conversations are inescapable.  Whether it’s your Facebook newsfeed, a conversation in the break room or chatter amongst other riders during your morning commute, everybody’s talking about the election. When it comes to your co-workers or your boss, political territory can be tricky.

Do you stump passionately for your favorite candidate or keep your mouth shut?

The answer isn’t cut and dry. Political views are highly personal and, to some degree, are even difficult to discuss with friends. Before you engage in the conversation, weigh the consequences. If you’re a staunch Clinton supporter and one of your work friends is a Trump fan, consider how your political talk will influence your relationship.  It might be difficult for you to see their point of view or think of them with the same amount of respect once the discussion is finished. That could put a strain on your work relationship long after the election’s over.

Is it worth it?

For those of you who’ve answered no, simply deflect and respectfully decline to have the conversation.

If you choose to jump in, think of the talk as a learning opportunity. Your goal should never be to convert someone to the other side. Listen to what they have to say. If you aren’t willing to do that, you shouldn’t have the conversation to begin with.

As hard as it may be, it’s important to stay respectful and try to find some type of common ground. After all, this isn’t a Facebook battle with a stranger. This is a co-worker in the next cubicle.

One wrong move could have long lasting consequences.

The election is the topic du jour. But if you choose to join the discussion in the workplace, tread lightly.