It's election season and isn’t it exciting. Honestly not sure how I feel about it but it is happening either way. There are many topics which are unofficially banned at work or seen as a taboo. Talking about your salary, divulging about a bad dating experience, get deep around religion and of course talking about politics at work.
So, imagine for a second that when you walk into work tomorrow everyone’s political views will be posted on their cubes. The unofficial rule around talking about politics at work is now changed. We can now talk about all aspects of politics at work. You do your usual walk to your cube in the morning and vote for Bernie or vote for Trump stickers are now plastered on your coworker’s cubes. Your first thought would be probably be
“WHAT THE HELL?”
But then you think, aren't we told that we should,
“Bring our whole selves to work each day!”
But should we? Talking about politics at work can be okay if done right. But it can easily go sideways and create a very divisive work environment. The political climate in America has never been more potent with words and messaging fueling a divided country. But at work, the lines don't exist as we are "forced" to work in collaborative spaces unbeknownst of each other's political views. It is almost like you leave that piece of yourself at home and you work hard to make sure your political views don't blend into your work life.
And that is where the problem lies. We should be able to express our feelings in a cordial and respectable manner at home and at work on any topic including politics. But before heading into work tomorrow to talk about the Super Tuesday results take a moment and get educated on how to have these types of conversations.
There are two books that I think can help you learn how to develop skills to have hard conversations at work. First, no surprise, read Crucial Conversations by co-authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillian and Al Switzler to understand the framework of how to have tough conversations. The steps outlined in their book are very practical and easy to adapt to everyday life. There are many cheat sheets online if needed as well.
Another favorite book is Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. I absolutely love how she framed "rumbles" in her book that gives you a deeper vulnerable look into mastering tough conversations.
But if you have no time to read or listen to a full book, here are:
4 Tips on how to talk about politics at work
Be nice: Leave all the CNN and Fox News rhetoric at home and just be respectful when talking about politics at work. Hear both sides and be a cordial adult. Is that too much to ask these days?
Be open: For a second or two, put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to understand their viewpoint. Why do they think the way they do? What is driving their choices? Get a different perspective.
Be ready to listen: Stop the yacking and simply listen. Spend time to trying to understand. Stephen Covey author of my all-time favorite book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People put it nicely:
"Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood."
Be able to find a commonality: Look for ways on how you connect with someone with a different viewpoint than yours'. Where are the mutual understandings? What topics or issues do you align on? Seek to find a foundation when having these sticky conversations.
Next time someone tries to bring politics up at work, don't freak out but use these tips. It doesn't have to be a scary conversation. There are hundreds of books, podcasts, and articles to help guide you but if you are strapped for time to do the research, and can't remember these tips just default to being a nice human being. It works every time!