It’s no secret that over the past few years our country has become more politically divided than ever.
With feelings running high – often as a result of the variety of ‘hot takes’ in the news, it’s tempting to share your thoughts in the workplace. And while we should be empowered to be inquisitive and challenge the top ideas of the day, the workplace should not be a place to vent.
Here are a few reasons why talking politics at the office can be a bad idea.
1. You risk alienating colleagues
Remember when you engaged in a political argument with someone and, at the end of the conversation, the other person said, “You know what? I think you’re right and you’ve totally changed mind?”. No, of course not. It’s almost a guarantee that this hasn’t happened to any of us.
Multiple research studies have confirmed that we are all guilty of confirmation bias — the tendency of people to seek out and accept information that confirms their beliefs and prejudices. And this stands true when we discuss politics. We’re often passionate about our beliefs and researcher even alludes that our political opinions intertwine with our personalities. The fact is most people will not change their views, and if we engage in arguments, we’ll most likely only cause others to be upset.
During the workday, you must consider that your coworkers probably don’t want to engage with you over political arguments. A poll conducted during the 2012 midterm election found that 42% of people said they don’t talk about politics at the office, while 44% said they talk about it, but shut down the conversation when it gets heated. Only 14% said they enjoyed discussing politics and having a lively debate at work.
Political topics tend to be irrelevant to the work at hand, and these conversations can trigger major clashes and hurtful feelings. It’s also bad for businesses. You’re more likely undermine teamwork and trust and even reduce productivity.
Being tactful and sensitive to others’ views is a sign of good emotional intelligence and is important to maintain morale and a respectful workplace that values everyone.
2. You can ruin your chances for a promotion
When employers are looking to fill needed roles from within the company, they’re not just solely considering the skills you possess and past performance. They’re also paying attention to your leadership skills. This includes your ability to build strong teams where people value your word, your empathy for others, and your ability to stay calm during stressful situations.
In fact, a recent survey found employers are much more likely to promote someone based on emotional intelligence factors compared to specific skills.
Engaging in political arguments with coworkers can you do you little good, and possibly a lot of harm when it comes to your promotion potential.
3. You Risk Being Fired
When you’re employed by a private company, you have few – if any – legal protections under federal and state law covering free speech at work.
Simply speaking, the First Amendment does not protect speech in any place and a private employer is not prohibited from setting rules or regulations and what is appropriate for workplace discussions.
There are countless examples of employees being let go while expressing their beliefs, whether it is wearing a piece of political jewelry, publishing an anti-diversity memo, or even engaging in an obscene gesture towards the President.
Now there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, public sector workers may enjoy First Amendment rights because their employer is the government, and others may have legal protections for discussing politics at work if it relates to your employment conditions. But a simple rule to follow is to remember that you’re on company time. Why risk being terminated by engaging in political arguments that will only raise tensions in your workplace?
As you can see, venting at about your political opinions at work often brings more harm than good – and can even cost you a promotion or job. You should still exercise your right to debate, but know there is a time and place for it — work shouldn’t be one.