‘Heated discussions can often have emotions running wild’
With federal election day looming, it may be tempting to launch some water cooler tirades about your least favourite candidate or party.
But campaign talk can result in nasty office politics, said Margot Ross-Graham, a workplace consultant and founder of Sandbar Coaching and Consulting.
Respectful arguments are hard to have, she said.
“Talking about politics can often cause heated discussions, and heated discussions can often have emotions running wild, which then hampers your ability to have very difficult conversations.
“Things start to get aggressive.”
‘Fruitless or impossible’
Unless your job specifically pertains to politics, such discussions should be avoided, Ross-Graham suggested.
Trying to convince Tom from finance that he should vote a certain way isn’t likely to end well.
Too often, Ross-Graham said, she has fielded complaints from employees distraught and too nervous to speak up over their cubicle partner’s political monologues.
“One thing we know about trying to sway people’s opinions is that it’s almost always fruitless or impossible,” Ross-Graham said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.
“Organizations have to be aware of this, and it can be on politics or it can be on sports or religion.”
Ross-Graham said companies rarely have strict “no politics” policies because they are nearly impossible to enforce, especially in a large workforce.
More often, managers instead adopt a policy that encourages a respectful, harassment-free workplace.
Google, however, took the unusual step in August.
The famously buttoned-down company issued new guidelines for how its roughly 100,000 employees should conduct themselves. Free-ranging discussions about politics, news stories or other non-work-related topics are now strictly off limits.
The California-based company cited “raging debate” as an ongoing problem and encouraged managers to intervene if rule-breakers were caught gabbing.
“While sharing information and ideas with colleagues helps build community, disrupting the workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story does not,” the policy said.
“Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do.”
If your company has a policy, be sure to know the rules, said Ross-Graham.
And if the conversation is unavoidable, don’t be dogmatic, she said. Play nice and save your electioneering for when you’re off the clock.
“For the most part, it does fall under the category of common sense,” she said. “Common sense is always a challenge in the workplace.”
Originally posted by CBC News on October 15, 2019