This 2016 presidential election promises to be an especially exciting and event-filled campaign. Many people are bound to get caught up in the excitement and fury to come. However, please do not make the mistake of discussing politics at work. People can get emotionally wrought up in their politics, causing unkind remarks that are impossible to un-say. Discussing politics at work can poison a healthy working relationship.
Several years ago a student went to work for a local company. At first all was bliss. The student talked about how nice the owner was and how much he was learning. The company owner remarked on how smart the student was and how quickly he learned. Then all of a sudden the reports changed. The student now called the owner a racist bigot and the owner said the student was lazy and stupid. Digging a little deeper I discovered the core issue: one day at work the student had offered his negative opinion of then president Ronald Reagan. He had made the assumption that because both he and his employer were on friendly terms and were polite to each other, that they felt the same way regarding politics. However, the employer thought Reagan had saved the country. The ensuing discussion left both of them so angry that the student could no longer work there. The student really needed the job, and truth be told, the company really needed his help. Both parties lost a valuable working relationship because of a casual remark about politics.
If you are an employee, offering your opinion on politics to fellow workers or your boss can jeopardize your relationship. If you are the boss, think about the effect offering your opinion has on your employees. They can’t safely disagree – so you won’t likely get honest discussion. They may quietly agree, even if they don't agree. Or, they may decide you're a racist bigot and quit. And of course you should NEVER start a political discussion with customers. If the customer starts the discussion, agree with whatever they say and get out of the discussion as quickly as possible. Who loses if the customer gets upset because of political differences? You and your company.
I know you probably feel that the country’s existence depends upon your candidate winning. But the truth is whoever is elected president will be there four years, maybe eight years. Hopefully your career will extend far beyond eight years. The president will come and go and you will still be making the world a better place by keeping folks comfortable. So what happened to the two techs in the story? They are both doing fine – separately. I am sure that they support different candidates. They each are fine men, good techs, and do our trade proud – I just won’t discuss politics with them.