It's officially springtime, which means two things are on full display - pollen and presidential politics. Although every swing and sway in the 2012 race may seem like fertile ground for watercooler discussion, I - as well as etiquette and HR/benefits experts - strongly encourage you to resist talking politics in the office.
"Don't assume other people believe what you believe," etiquette expert Anna Post with the Emily Post Institute tells CNN. "You don't choose who you work with, so it's really important that that relationship is a good one."
Dean Debnam, CEO of Workplace Options, concurs with Post. "As we get closer to the election and the rhetoric gets even more heated, it's even more advisable to leave your politics at home," he tells the network. "You need to create an environment that feels comfortable and productive in every way to employees if you want to get the best out of them."
I agree 100%. We all know that we spend more waking hours at work than at home, so why spoil fun and cordial working relationships with lightning rod topics?
I admit, I didn't always follow Post's advice, and workplace discussions of politics, religion and race - that began peacefully and calmly enough - sometimes devolved into shouting matches that resulted in resentments, hurt feelings and awkward interactions between coworkers.
Now, that I'm older and wiser, I've learned to keep workplace conversations centered on much more neutral topics. Visit EBN's offices on any given day, and I can almost guarantee you're more likely to hear the name Khloe Kardashian mentioned more times than Newt Gingrich.
Does talk of reality TV instead of politics increase the collective IQ of our staff? Nope. But you'd better believe we have a much better time. We laugh - a lot. And we genuinely enjoy one another's company. And no one's ever accused a coworker of creating a hostile working environment. Those are things I'm not sure would be true if we were rehashing candidates' debate performances every week.
Still, if you and your colleagues would rather talk Romney than "Real Housewives," I certainly don't begrudge you. I'd simply encourage you to follow Post's words of wisdom: "Be willing to swallow the last word, be able to agree to disagree and be willing to bow out before it escalates."
What do you think? Is it best to avoid political discussions in the workplace entirely to keep the peace and avoid potential litigation? Or, is there room for debate within reason? Email me to share your thoughts.
Send letters, queries and story ideas to Editor-in-Chief Kelley M. Butler at email@example.com.
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