A few weeks ago, when I walked into a high end clothing store in NYC, the greeters were so engrossed in conversation, they didn’t see me. ‘How can Donald Trump not pay taxes? I can’t believe he says he understands the little guy.’ The day after the first debate, the cashiers in the grocery store were arguing over whether Hillary Clinton should have worn red. This past week waiters at a local restaurant ignored me and other patrons, as they gawked at Trump’s ‘Bus video’ on their phones.
Talking with co-workers in the workplace is not new. We all do it- it helps pass the time, gives us a break and builds connections. Political discussions are also not new to the workplace, but this year the political arena is particularly thorny and emotions are running high. In the workplace, expressing your emotions and opinions might or might not be advisable. A few things to consider before you open your mouth:
1- Do your job– In the above examples, workers were shirking job responsibilities in favor of chatting with co-workers. Remember, you are on the clock- so the chatting shouldn’t prevent you from doing your job. Plenty of time to get your point across when you’re on a break or at lunch.
2- Keep it private– Make sure you are heard ONLY by the people you’re speaking to. In the above examples, customers could easily overhear. In other settings, supervisors, executives, clients and visitors may hear what you’re saying. Many dangers: Your words are taken out of context and repeated (Jane said WHAT?) and you’ve become the center of office gossip. Workers- including your boss- make judgements based on what they think you said. The outsider may report you to your supervisor- could be a competitive co-worker out to get you, customer who needs service or the CEO wondering why he/she’s paying workers to hang around and talk. Lots of possible outcomes here- none of them positive.
3- TRUST– If you decide to share political opinions in the workplace, choose your audience wisely. Ask yourself: Can I trust this person? The answer- YES or NO- should come to you immediately. If you’re not completely sure, don’t risk it. Your gut instinct is NEVER wrong. ‘Maybe’, or ‘I think so’ – will land you in trouble. Stay quiet. You won’t regret it.
In this heated and emotional climate just weeks before the election, BE CAREFUL. It’s so tempting to join in and share your strong feelings- be part of the lively debate. But at what cost? You have to return to work tomorrow and the next day- your words and actions TODAY may come back to bite you. Ask yourself: Is it worth it?