Political talk can turn friendly colleagues into warring factions. Modern Manners Guy on why talking politics at work never works out.
When I was a kid, my uncle used to say, "Opinions are like a$$holes—everybody has one." Okay, so my dear uncle was not the most poetic man in the world, but he was right. Everyone seems to have an opinion about everything under the sun and many of us get very eager to prove our point. And now, as our political theater is heating up, the issue of politics in the workplace seems to take center stage. I can't go one hour without seeing a Facebook post or a tweet touting someone's political views.
Let me start by saying: Modern Manners Guy is not one to talk politics. Just not my style. But if politics turns an educated discussion amongst adults into a World War of unmannerly proportions, I will step in to intervene.
It seems that there is always one person who fancies himself the expert. And usually when someone says they know it all, they only really know their own side of the story, peppered with falsehoods about the other side that they can throw around as needed. And this is why politics should stay out of the workplace in general.
Let's face it, when you have a sign on your office or cube supporting a particular party, everyone knows what you stand for (or rather, assumes they know what you stand for). And because most people often don’t take the time to learn the nuances of a given ideology, they project their own image of that belief onto you. And you can't control it. I've witnessed coworkers making quick judgment calls on a colleague just because of a bumper sticker he had on his cubicle wall. It got so bad, they couldn't even work together. Thing was, they never even talked about it! They just made assumptions about what this guy believed—based on a sticker! Crazy, I tell you.
So here's the deal with talking about politics in the office: Don't do it. Don't preach, don't boast, don't post up newspaper articles or signs. Just don't bring it into the office. I don't care if you spend 15 hours a day at work—use that time to work, not talk politics. I don't care if someone comes in dressed as a former or current President. Don't comment. And I don't care if one person has a cat named Barack and another has a cat named Mitt. There is no reason to use that as a launch pad for political discussion.
Talking politics in the office, as history shows, never works out. In fact, it can only divide people. So save your beliefs for after the clock chimes "closing time" and stick to talking about quality topics…like celebrity baby pictures, the Kardashians, or the debate over whether pro wrestling is real or not. Oh, I know the answer to the last one if you'd like to discuss.