Take a moment to think about how many times you have engaged in a conversation about politics in the last week.

Did these conversations happen in the workplace?

With the 2016 American election well underway, there is no shortfall of material to discuss. Whether you’re on Team Trump, Team Clinton, or you just want to talk about the latest Saturday Night Live sketch – it seems that everyone has an opinion.

But should these conversations be happening in the workplace? And is political watercooler chit chat ever a good thing?

 

Our political beliefs are tied to our identity

This point is massive – our political beliefs are linked very closely to our identity and core values.

When discussing politics, you are inadvertently discussing and potentially confronting your colleagues core values. For some people, this can be very insulting and has the power to leave sour vibes within the office.

 

Perceptions of colleagues can be altered

Controversial topics are fantastic to debate – there is no denying this fact. However, you do run the risk of perceptions of yourself and your colleagues being altered, and not always for the best.

Our political opinions are deeply ingrained and by challenging your colleague’s opinions you may make them look down upon you or even change their beliefs in your ability to complete your job.

 

You run the risk of vilifying certain groups

Political chit chat is often completed at the expense of certain groups, including religion.

By vocalising intense controversial opinions, you’re running the risk of vilifying certain groups. It can also alienate people – or yourself from your colleagues.

After all, you’re never going to 100% know the direction that everyone in your office leans on a particular issue.

 

You’re not going to change opinions in a five-minute chat

Take this as a reminder to immediately stop trying to change your colleague’s opinions.

As pointed out, our opinions are rooted deeply with our identity and core values – these don’t develop overnight and will not be easily swayed with a quick conversation over the watercooler.

It’s best not to try and launch into a lecture or heated debate in the office. If you have to discuss the current political landscape, do so by asking for opinions but not rebutting them if they differ from your own fundamental values.

After all, a conversation is a two-way street.

 

Know when it’s time to walk away

We know you’ll never be able to avoid political chatter 100% of the time – it’s bound to happen, especially with the current election!

Remember to approach these conversations with caution. Keep chatter light hearted and friendly and most of all, if you sense a conversation taking a turn for the worse or getting too heated, excuse yourself and walk away.

It’s often far easier to keep emotions in check by removing ourselves from a nasty situation. Save political opinions for when you see friends over the weekend and head back to the mountain of work you inevitably have to do.