Political polarization has become a part of our lives. We can see it in our families and friendships. Some people report that they have even stopped talking to or socializing with someone they know because of disagreements over politics.
So it’s probably not surprising that polarization has entered the workplace. That can mean more of a challenge at work than issues of race, religion, gender, age, or education. If you haven’t been involved in a political ‘discussion, you probably have witnessed an argument over a political issue. With a year to go before the 2020 election, the tension is not going to go away.
In a Perfect World
In an ideal ‘perfect world’ people would be able to talk about their political views and if others shared your views, it’s probably not a problem. However, in the real world where you work, not only is there politics, there are also workplace politics which means that advertising personal opinions can carry consequences. You see what happens when you have different political views when you talk to family and friends. Once you enter the workplace, you should be even more careful with what you say and to whom.
If you are trying to drum up support for your cause, it might get you fired from your place of employment if other people are bothered by it, because the goal of the workplace is to get the product or service out the door, not generate support for your cause. The workplace is not the place to make others feel pressured or uncomfortable.
This is Who I Am
No one is saying that you can’t hold political opinions. We have the right to free speech. But employers are supposed to manage things in the workplace and prevent employees from abusing each other or simply making each other uncomfortable. It’s the employer’s job to make sure that happens but it’s also everyone’s responsibility too. All employees should try to avoid political arguments at work – whether starting them or contributing their two cents to them.
When someone at work says something that you think is wrong, you face a choice: speak up or bite your tongue. When done well, disagreement can promote a positive work culture where everyone knows they’re welcome at the table. But to get to that point, you need to understand how to professionally disagree. And not only do most people not know how to disagree professionally and skillfully when politics enters the conversation, it can also be hard to stay polite and respectful
We may not be able to stop political polarization. Stating your view may simply send others to the opposite extreme. But it doesn’t hurt to operate on the assumption that when we are at work, everyone wants to do a good job and your co-workers are basically decent folks no matter their age, race, education, religion or political beliefs. You are all working for the same organization. It doesn’t need to be a win-lose proposition in the workplace.