Political Correctness – Do Politics Belong in the Workplace?

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Warning!  Warning!  – This is NOT a political post.  You will not find a single mention of either party or any candidate SO please proceed!!  Yes, go ahead breathe a sigh of relief!  This is not being written to persuade you to support my political views or beliefs.  My purpose is merely to discuss one simple question – Do politics have a place in the office or not . . . and I am NOT referring to office politics?

There is a debate, different from the presidential debates that we have all been watching, which reflects on whether politics have a place in the workplace.  The Wall Street Journal ran an article yesterday entitled, “Debate Rages as Politics Hits the Office”.  The article does not take a stand on whether political chatter is good or bad in the workplace- just that it is on the rise because of open-plan offices and the social networks that make worker’s political views very public.  The article caught my attention because I was hoping to actually find a point of view that might temper my extreme dislike for talking politics in the workplace.

This is an issue I have really struggled with so I have been seeking others points of view by doing some research. There was a time when certain subjects were considered to be taboo in the office – religion, sex, politics, abortion, etc.   As I thought about that, the term “politically correct” came to mind so I looked it up.  Here is the definition that I found in Wikipedia:

 “Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts, and, as purported by the term, doing so to an excessive extent”.

Since when did it become PC to discuss politics in the office especially when politics are rife with all the elements we are NOT supposed to discuss to be PC?  I am all for freedom of speech but have we considered the unintended consequences that can stem from these discussions – hurt feelings, feelings of isolation if you have a different viewpoint, loss of business as in the Chick-fil-A debacle?  If we could have constructive conversations that allowed for differing points of view than maybe it would be OK but I have never seen an election season that has generated so much emotion on both sides. In addition, sprinkling each other with “facts” from the other side adds little value to the conversation and rarely changes anyone’s mind since our individual point of view is a product of our culture, belief system, upbringing, religion, etc.

I am not naïve enough to think that this post will stop the chatter.  I hope maybe it will cause some to think.   There are no hard and fast rules on how to handle political discussions in the office  but I would like to share five helpful tips from Ruth Graham : http://thegrindstone.com/career-management/office-etiquette-strategy/office-etiquette-talking-politics-142/

Avoid getting involved

  1. Be noncommittal
  2. Remember that people are listening
  3. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind
  4. Speak up when it’s necessary

I am interested in what others think about this challenge.  Please join the conversation .

 

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Anne Kohler
Anne has been leading consulting and financial management organizations for over 25 years. She has extensive expertise in Strategic Sourcing, change management, contracting & contract management (both the buy side and sell side) organizational design and supply chain management. Anne has a passion for collaborating and educating her clients while helping them to uncover hidden value in their organizations. In addition, Anne has been named by Supply & Demand Chain Executive as a “Top 100 Provider Pro to Know” every year since 2007 and a 2013 Top Female Supply Chain executive.
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2 Comments

  1. Sam S Ocialble on

    Subjects not concerning the business of the office should not be discussed on office time. We are already harrassed by collections for birthdays, and other personal stuff by the group of girls who are the office social organizers. That is the extent of business out side the office on which time should be spent. If you want to talk politics with your co-workers, meet at the local bar after work and discuss it all night if you choose.

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