Political Discussions at Work: Should you open your mouth?

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  heated-discussionTrump’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?

LGBT in the Workplace: How to handle slights, slurs and derogatory comments

When I was asked to write an article for Advancing Women about LGBT workers, I found myself overwhelmed with possibilities. Conflict, relationships, identity- all broad topics with many applicable issues. As I thought about this and began to narrow down the options, I decided to tackle the slights, slurs and derogatory comments LGBT employees encounter. These subtle (or not so subtle) jabs negatively affect the employee’s attitude, behavior, relationships and ultimately productivity. No way to live or work.  RESPECT-RAINBOW

What to do when you encounter these jabs is the subject of my article: http://bit.ly/1RnMr6e . When that offensive comment is made, you need a specific strategy- what is your goal and how will you get there? I help take you through the steps. Make your position clear AND keep you job.

 

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What’s the problem with Team Building?

team building1

Employees are often called team members, so it would follow that strengthening or building the team would result in a unified group and more efficient work force. Employers often schedule team building activities, retreats and gatherings to encourage and foster a team spirit. So, what’s the problem? The problem is hourly employees aren’t interested in being on a team. They are hired to do a job and when the shift is over, they are out the door. That is the contract (whether verbal or formally written, as in a Union shop) they enter into when they accept the position. The expectation that hourly employees will welcome the chance to bond with team members (especially if there is no compensation to do so) is not realistic. When I was an hourly employee, I always wondered, What’s the point? And what’s in it for me? Management would do well to answer those questions before urging hourly employees to join the team.

Can you say “NO”?

no-yes“Some people just can’t say NO,” my friend said. He was talking about a potential client who strung him along for weeks with requests for proposals and information, but made no commitment. Why couldn’t the client just say “NO, I’m not interested”? Saying NO can be uncomfortable and many of us avoid it.

In the workplace, hourly employees often feel they should say NO but don’t quite know how to do this. For example, manager asks hotel room attendant to tend to an area outside the room (vacuum the hallway, clean a stain on the hallway carpet). This is clearly not part of his/her job, but how do you say NO to your boss? Room attendant may reluctantly complete the extra task, but fall behind in his/her other work. Co-workers are angry because now they will be expected to do the same extra jobs. Workers may involve Human Resources and/or the Union to clarify job duties, and the room attendant may be scapegoated and shunned by peers.

Incidents like the one described above are costly – in terms of time and productivity (employees on all levels working to resolve the issue) and customer service suffers (everyone is in HR sorting this out, rather than on the floor cleaning guest rooms).
SO, it is worth the investment to teach employees how to communicate effectively and handle difficult situations like this one. The hallway will be vacuumed and carpet stain removed in a timely fashion by the appropriate worker.