Talking politics and the difference of opinions in the office is almost always a terrible idea. But what about when a different form of ‘office politics’ comes into play?
There are always going to be disagreements and differing opinions among coworkers. That’s just human nature – there’s no avoiding it.
Talking politics is taboo, unless you want to offend someone with your opinions and beliefs. There’s such a thin line between politics and personal feelings.
When we say politics, what does that even mean? Merriam-Webster, the ubiquitous dictionary, has the following definitions:
- the art or Science of Government
- Political actions, practices, or policies
- political affairs or businesses; especially: competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government)
- the political opinions or sympathies of a person
- the total complex relations between people living in society
Whether it’s actually political science and governmental policy or the competing personalities of various persons of leadership in your office, politics will always be driven by personalities and pride.
Politics in the workplace might have to do with a hierarchal structure of who reports to who, who does what, and even who eats where. It might even find its ground in personal relationships, workers who fail to keep their feelings under wraps, or that occasional colleague who loves to stir the pot.
Someone who is political can be thoughtful and orchestrated about how they carry themselves. They might over-think the way they speak, act, and present themselves – all to keep a good rapport and a positive image with their peers. And they probably fit into one of these general categories.
You have the person of unwavering arrogance who simply knows everything about everybody that ever was. They’re never wrong and their ego is as big as they imagine.
Then there’s the semi-educated personality who reads headlines and simply repeats them without formulating an original thought or idea. They are always interesting to question and prod as further prompting will probably stump them altogether.
You’ll also find the progressive, informed type who takes offense to every bipartisan policy and seems to have an agenda of finding issue with everything and anything.
And don’t forget the conservative who is set in their ways and longs for the olden days where the “good ole boys” ruled the land and times were simpler.
You have the two extremes, which every office has: the left wing liberal and the right wing conservative. These two are always at odds and refuse to listen to each other or engage in a productive debate. They are informed and educated, but also childish and close-minded.
And you have the person who flies below the radar. They’re popular because they don’t offend anybody and they keep to themselves – no shouting to interject with their opinions. These are observers.
Best advice for getting involved in the politics: Don’t
If you need a mantra or a working suggestion as you navigate through life, use this: principles before personalities.
If you take nothing else away from this article, please remember those three words. Put the rules before your desires, put the work before your opinions, put someone’s qualifications before their character. It’s incredibly challenging, but completely necessary if you want to lead a sane and somewhat peaceful work life.
There are always going to be people you disagree with, people you can’t stand, and people you feel like you can’t even breathe the same air with. That’s just life. Those people help us appreciate the more sympathetic souls that we actually like to spend time with.
We need opposites and dichotomies. Otherwise, we wouldn’t notice the difference. If there wasn’t bad weather, there wouldn’t be good weather — there would just be weather. If you never felt sick, you’d always feel better – there really wouldn’t be a better.
So while Jim from accounting might drive you crazy and Susan from HR gets your blood boiling, you have to learn to see past it. Place their principles, the company’s principles, the organization’s future success, and the project at hand’s completion at the forefront. Let the personalities take a backseat.
What if you’re stuck in a bad conversation?
Nearly every news headline these days is about a controversial bill being passed, a notable politician being slandered, or a political group staging a protest. With every news story comes an opinion, a unique perspective, and a subsequent disagreement.
Some people are extremely outspoken about what they believe in and others are a little more mature in their approach, only speaking when their opinion adds value to a conversation. Remember, every conversation has a time and a place.
Even if you try to avoid sticky situations and don’t talk politics around the office, you’re bound to get stuck in a bad conversation every now and then. To minimize fallout and keep the peace, ask yourself these questions before voicing your opinion:
- Does it really need to be said?
- Does it need to be said now?
- Does it need to be said by you?
Take that little test whenever these situations occur and keep a clear head. The old adage of ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ couldn’t be more applicable.
At the end of the day, it’s usually better to just stay out of it. Don’t raise your blood pressure, stress level, and anger all for the sake of an argument that will lead nowhere. We believe in debate, but it’s usually only beneficial in an academic or political setting. Again, principles before personalities.
Take the High Road
Life is full of these uncomfortable situations – that’s what keeps things interesting. The constant struggle between personalities is what human nature dictates.
It’s okay and normal for disagreements to arise every now and then. But when that happens, be prepared to take the high road if things turn sour.
Whatever political personality you encounter, whatever political structure or hierarchy you fall under, whatever political conventions or norms you’re expected to follow in your place of work — take the high road, avoid needless arguing, and keep the peace.
Always place the principles before personalities. That will save you from some tense conversations and generally reduce your stress around the office.