How to handle political discussions with your coworkers

  • At best, workplace political talk can be annoying — and things can easily escalate and get heated.
  • Amy Morin — a psychotherapist, mental strength coach, and international bestselling author — says there are steps you can take to prevent these conversations from harming your relationships or well-being.
  • One trick is to politely disengage by distancing yourself from break-room discussions or after-meeting political discourse.
  • It might not always been an option to omit yourself from these discussions, but address any hateful or disrespectful comments and involve your supervisor, HR, or manager if it gets hostile. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Listening to your colleagues debate political issues can be draining. What’s even more exhausting, though, is when they try to drag you into the conversation.

At best, workplace political talk can be annoying. But at worst, these conversations get downright heated. They can even take a serious toll on your mental health.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take in a disagreement with your colleagues to prevent the discussions from damaging your relationships, your career, or your psychological well-being.

Avoid politics whenever possible

It can be a good idea to avoid political discussions with your colleagues whenever possible. Of course, this may not always be an option.

Your job might depend heavily on the political climate. Or maybe your boss serves on a local governing board.

But as long as political discussions remain respectful, they don’t have to be a bad thing. And you might find you can have healthy conversations with people who share very different ideas. 

Think carefully about how many of your personal opinions you want to divulge. Regardless of whether you agree with your coworkers or are strongly opposed, consider what good it will do to take a stance and make your ideologies known.

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Politely disengage from conversations

If you don’t want to talk about politics, but the people around you do, find ways to disengage from the conversation.

There may be part of you that resists walking away or ending a conversation. You might think you need to stand up for your beliefs. But consider how likely your opinion is going to  sway someone else’s deep-rooted beliefs — it’s not likely to happen with a workplace conversation.

You might simply state, “I don’t agree with what you’re saying, and there’s no sense in talking about this.” Or you might say, “I’m not interested in debating this issue with you,” if someone tries to bait you.

Decide not to waste your time and mental energy trying to convince someone why you disagree. Use that same time and energy to do something more productive instead.

You also might distance yourself from people in general if political conversations are going on all the time. Go for a walk at lunch instead of sitting in the break room. Or opt out of the after-meeting conversations that center around politics.

Address comments that cross the line

There may be times when political comments cross the line and become disrespectful or even hateful.

If your colleague forwards political emails that you find offensive or says things like, “Only dumb people believe that,” speak up. Make it clear that you don’t appreciate it and you want that type of conversation to stop — regardless of whether it’s you or another colleague or group who is being targeted.

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Go through the proper channels if you’re uncomfortable

If political conversation has turned into political bullying, address the issue through the proper channels. Talk to your supervisor, HR department, or a manager about the environment.

Explain how it’s getting in the way of being able to conduct your work or how it’s affecting your mental health.

Don’t feel bad about talking to someone in management. If you’re feeling stressed by the political conversations, you can feel rest assured other people are too. They just might not dare to speak up.

Addressing the issue through the proper channels can help create a healthier workplace for everyone. And good management will understand how important it is for everyone to feel comfortable at work regardless of their political stance.

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