Keeping politics out of the workplace

Talk about things that will make you a stronger, happier, more productive office — in other words, not the election.

Every office has that one employee who feels compelled to share his views on divisive political issues. (It should go without saying, but just in case: Don’t be that guy.) Come election season, however, even your tolerable co-workers are likely talking politics a bit. How to keep it more professional than the campaigns? We checked in with consultant Susan Heathfield, About.com’s “Guide to Human Resources.”

Think before you speak: Politics isn’t the only topic that can lead to uncomfortable situations among co-workers. Before you bring up this morning’s election headlines, consider how and why you’re sharing the information. “Think about your conversations at work: Are they advancing productivity or relationships? If not, you shouldn’t be discussing it at work,” says Heathfield. “Politics is a hot button — just like religion and sexuality. It’s very easy to go from ‘this is my opinion’ to ‘this is what is right.’”

Uncomfortable? Say something: Whether it’s your boss or your assistant who’s crossing the line, talk to them about it instead of merely resenting them. “You should be able to say, ‘Hey, I’m really uncomfortable with all of this political stuff – can you stop it?’” says Heathfield. “Be very forthright.”

If all else fails, talk to HR: A boss who rants about his or her political beliefs can easily and accurately be accused of discrimination, harassment and creating a hostile work environment — words that can quickly add up to “lawsuit.” For this reason, says Heathfield, your HR department will be very, very happy to help diffuse the situation before things get worse.


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