When it comes to politics, there may have never been a more divisive time in our nation’s history. Whether that division is fueled by social media, news outlets, or other sources, it is a difficult time to be on any side of the political discourse in this country.
This is particularly true when it comes to the workplace. Law firms, like most organizations, are made up of people from all walks of life. Yet perhaps more than other people, legal professionals tend to have strong opinions about things. They’re also very skilled in debate and, of course, they all love to win. This creates the perfect storm for inappropriate blowouts over political issues.
Nonetheless, your law office is your place of employment. Thus, it is extremely important that you keep your cool when it comes to office chatter about politics. How do you do that? Read on for our top tips on how and why to avoid this dangerous trap.
#1: Have an exit strategy
Unless you work in an office that has a unified political stance (the ACLU, perhaps), differing political discussions are bound to happen. Consequently, tempers will undoubtedly flare up from time to time. Do yourself a favor and have a pre-planned exit strategy for avoiding political conversations.
Whether your particular move is changing the topic, respectfully disagreeing, or making up an excuse to walk away (“Oh my gosh, I have a meeting in 5 minutes!”), it is good to know in advance how you’re going to keep your cool when these conversations arise.
#2: Avoid social media rants
Some people are able to walk away from political arguments in the office, only to go home later and rant about their day on social media. Remember, however, that there are no laws that prohibit your employer from monitoring your social media posts. Thus, if you think you’re going to safely stick it to your boss by railing against him on Facebook, think again.
There’s no reason why your boss can’t monitor what you say and, if it gets personal about him or another co-worker, reprimand you for your actions. You’re entitled to your opinions but just be careful about what you say regarding your colleagues and the workplace.
#3: Know your go-to topics
While this tip is related to tip #1, it is a bit more focused. You don’t always have to exit a difficult political conversation, but you can always change the topic. Why not be that one person in the office who consistently has interesting, off-beat things to talk about?
For example, if someone brings up last night’s political debate, you can rattle off little known facts about the city the debate was held in. With a little planning (and frequent reading of “weird” news sites), you can quickly become the peacemaker when the office becomes a war zone.
#4: Don’t put anything in writing
Look, every law firm has distinct groups of friends — people who hang out together after work and do stuff on the weekends. They’re also the people you gossip with about workplace happenings. Obviously, you’re tempted to tell them details of your workday and—when you encounter an offensive political discussion—you may even be tempted to email them about it.
This is the perfect recipe for sending a perfectly bad work email. Don’t do it. Let your emotions subside and then, if you need to talk to someone, talk to them in person. Remember that the things you put in an email never go away. And sadly, they could just come back to haunt you.
#5: Deal with wins and losses appropriately
During an election season, approximately half the people in your office will be thrilled with the outcome and the other half will be devastated. Regardless of which side you’re on, remember to be appropriate with your response and how you display your reactions.
While you may disagree with your co-workers, you’re still going to have to work with them after the election cycle ends. Don’t ruin your relationships by showing excessive emotion either way. Save those feelings for your time off.
#6: Understand the repercussions of political talk at work
Having heated political discussions at work not only puts your job at risk, it may just put your entire workplace at risk. Aside from building wedges between people who need to work efficiently together, workplace political arguments can harm productivity and make people feel isolated. Try to remember that you’re at work solely to advance the interests of your clients. If talking about politics harms that goal in any way, it is high time to stop.
Read more >> Law firm faux pas to avoid now
What are your strategies for avoiding political discussions at work?