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Here’s How to Handle Political Discussion at Work

Stacey Engle

Stacey Engle

The 2016 Presidential election is finally over. But one question remains: How do you move on with your co-workers?

Whether you are jumping for joy or drowning your sorrows, there is a good chance that when you head into the office you’ll be faced with someone who is feeling the opposite. If you engaged in discussions around your choices, these interactions could be tough.

If handled correctly, however, they don’t need to drag on or bring you down, according to Stacey Engle, executive vice president of marketing for Fierce Inc., a global leadership development and training company that changes the way people communicate with each other.

There are a few ways to handle engaging with those with different beliefs, without damaging the working relationship. Here are some of Engle’s suggestions on how to get that done in the weeks and months to come.

· Give it time. While in almost all cases we encourage conversation, this is a bit different. Some people may be fine to not discuss the topic again, or at least not until the news has had time to sink in. Especially if your candidate or issue was on the winning side, avoid bringing the topic up.

· Ask yourself, what is my intent? If you are considering approaching the topic, be sure to question your intention and desired outcome. This can help put the conversation into perspective, and potentially avoid discussions that come from a less-then-genuine place. Do not start a conversation to gloat, under any circumstance.

· Remember where you are. It is possible to have civilized, even enlightening conversations with co-workers about politics. There is also, however, a big risk for both offending, and being offended. What works around your dinner table or with a group of friends may not be appropriate at the office. Keep this top of mind.

· Watch your language. As a rule in any contentious conversation, instead of using “but” after validating someone’s opinion, use “and”. Example: “Yes I see your view, and I feel differently” instead of “Yes I see your view, but I feel differently.” Hear the difference? “And” is more inclusive.

· Address behavior if necessary. If there is someone specific who is causing tension, call out the behavior in a one‐to‐one setting. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, ask your manager. Then, explore how the situation could be handled differently in a way that reflects the company’s core values.

Karen Dybis

Karen is an editor and writer for Corp! Magazine. She graduated from the University of Michigan and has worked at The Mackinac Island Town Crier, The Kalamazoo Gazette, The (Adrian) Daily Telegram and The Oakland Press. Karen spent five years at The Detroit News as a business writer with stints in retail, workplace issues and personal finance. Dybis also was a blogger on Time magazine's "Assignment: Detroit" project.

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