how to talk politics at work without being a jerk

Offices across the country are filled with political talk right now, as people digest last week’s election results and speculate on what the country can expect from the new presidential administration and Republican-controlled Congress. It’s possible to have interesting, productive political conversations with your coworkers … but it’s also possible to cross lines, cause tension and even harm your work relationships, so you need to proceed with caution.

Here’s how you can discuss politics at work without being a jerk.

First and foremost, respect that not everyone wants to talk about politics at work. You might be itching to debate the merits of the electoral college or speculate on what will happen in the next congressional session, but not everyone wants to have those conversations, particularly at work. Some people may be deliberately trying to get away from political talk, others may be uncomfortable sharing personal viewpoints with their employer and still others may just want to work in peace. So if you notice your coworker isn’t engaging in the conversation with you or is actively trying to change the subject, don’t ignore those cues. An awful lot of people don’t want to talk politics with coworkers, and in the interest of office harmony – and basic decency – you should respect those preferences.

Be aware of trapped bystanders who might not appreciate the conversation, as well. If you’re having a spirited political debate with a colleague, have some empathy for the person whose desk you’re lingering near. Being trapped near coworkers who won’t drop the political discussions is plenty of people’s idea of hell, to say nothing of how hard it can make it for them to concentrate on work.

Accept that in the aftermath of last week’s election, some of your coworkers may be grieving. Many people whose candidate didn’t win have serious worries about what the results will mean for their own lives (including in regard to things like health care) and the lives of those they care about. Whether or not you think their concerns are founded, this is not the time to try to prod or provoke people. Be respectful and sensitive to the depth of feelings that many people have about last week’s results.

Be respectful. If you want to talk about the election with coworkers who have different beliefs than you, make your goal to educate and understand – not to persuade or harangue (and definitely not to gloat or demonize). If you don’t think your coworker’s political beliefs are deserving of your respect, take that as a sign that you shouldn’t be engaging in the conversation at work at all. After all, to do your job well, you need to maintain pleasant and respectful relationships with colleagues – and your colleagues deserve to be able to come to work without being harassed about their beliefs.

Don’t assume that other people share your political beliefs. Even if your office seems relatively homogeneous, your coworkers’ political beliefs may not be. Assuming that you know someone’s political viewpoints is a really good way to offend, alienate or marginalize your coworkers. And while you might think it should be no big deal for the person to speak up and correct you, some people may not be comfortable doing that, especially if doing so would mean that they would out themselves as a political minority in your office.

Try to seek common ground. If you find yourself in a conversation with a colleague whose views are quite different from your own, things will likely go better if you assume that the other person cares deeply about the country’s future and the well-being of future generations. Saying that out loud can help keep things from becoming contentious – as in, “I know we both want the best future for our country. We just disagree about how to get there.”

If you don’t want to talk politics at work, be forthright about setting and enforcing that boundary with your coworkers. You can simply say, “I’d rather not discuss politics at work” or “We look at these issues differently, and I’d rather keep politics out of our work relationship.” And if all else fails, this may be a good month to wear headphones.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 362 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A reminder, since I see the note in the post itself is not working: Please, no election-specific talk here, as I’m not up for policing the many directions it could go in. That means no remarks about the candidates themselves, their policies, your feelings about their voters, etc. The topic is how to manage (or avoid) election talk at work in general, not the specifics of what’s currently happening.

    I realize that’s quite an ask with this topic, but I think it can be done. If you disagree, feel free to pass this one by!

    1. Sibley*

      I’ve put hard boundaries in place with my mom and roommate, for different reasons. Neither is happy about it. I don’t particularly care – I don’t want to talk about it. If you persist, I’m hanging up or walking away.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        My brother and I have both had to do this with my mother. It’s infuriating because she knows that I refuse to get into the discussion with her but continues to try to bait me into engaging by reading off the most click bait-y headlines from her favorite extremely politically leaning website whenever I visit.

        I made the mistake of responding to one of these when I was visiting last year for the holidays and ended up getting sucked into a 3 hour “discussion” which consisted of her repeating the same 5 talking points from said website and me finally devolving to, “no, that’s wrong because MATH.” Never again.

        1. Natalie*

          Yeah, my husband and I are already strategizing around his mother, who is not someone who a differently-leaning person can have a rational conversation with. So basically, strategizing means agreeing that she gets one chance when we change the subject and then we’re taking the dog for a walk so she can get it out of her system.

    2. Maxwell Edison*

      I’ve already laid down the law that anyone who brings up politics in any way at Thanksgiving dinner will be sent away from the table and given dry toast and stale Halloween candy for dinner instead of turkey, pie, etc.

      1. Murphy*

        I’m going to try to enlist my father to help change the subject if it comes up at dinner…the rest of my family is a lost cause in that endeavor.

        At least I’m pregnant and I can play the “politics stress out the baby” card.

      2. AshleyH*

        our thanksgiving rules are: If you bring up politics you must give me $10, eat outside (and we live in Kansas City so it’ll be cold out), and you get no gravy.

        My dad is super conservative, my MIL is super liberal. I am super not wanting to talk about it, at all.

        1. Mabel*

          My parents emailed me a couple of months ago to tell me that they re-registered in X party because they usually end up voting that way but that I should NOT TELL MY BROTHER. So I assume politics will not come up the next time I see them. I can’t remember ever talking politics with my family.

    3. Pass the Bean Dip*

      I hope so. My problem is that out of all the people with whom I will be spending the various upcoming holidays, I am the only one whose job is involved with politics (I do not work directly in politics anymore, but my job puts me in frequent contact with many elected and appointed officials). I am absolutely dreading the moment when someone turns to me and says, “So, how about that election, huh?” and suddenly the whole room is looking at me like I have the answers. Add in the fact that I am on the opposite side of nearly everyone else, and I just want to find a polite way to go temporarily deaf until the conversation moves on.

      1. Perry Meno*

        Maybe respond with “so, how about this awesome pie/that sports thing/your life event” every time. And if there is silence, just let them sit with it :)

    4. Florida*

      I think a good phrase to use with family is, “Hmmm, that’s interesting.”

      Whenever you are thinking, “You are the biggest idiot on the planet,” just shrug and say, “Hmmm…that’s interesting.”

      You can also say, “You might be right,” but they might think you agree.

      1. Maxwell Edison*

        One of my best friends has views on several issues that clash with mine. We’re both adept at recognizing when conversation could get into some troublesome waters and will use a loud “ANYWAY…” to signal a change of subject onto a less controversial topic (like Kirk vs. Picard).

        1. There's a Spoon in the Pie*

          Picard! I can’t believe you’d even consider voting for Kirk! Blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I like to say, “there are certainly others who feel that way” (or less stuffy versions of that) and then change the subject. If done kindly, it sounds super stealth because you haven’t agreed with anyone, but you also haven’t totally invalidated the other person. I only use it with people I’m trying to preserve a relationship with.

  2. hugseverycat*

    Personally, I don’t think people should talk politics at work in public area, unless said politics are part of their work. It’s extremely distracting. I care deeply about my beliefs but work isn’t the place. When I do discuss politics with co-workers, it is in a private text chat so I am not distracting anyone else.

    1. Anonymous Today*

      Seriously, and on the subjects of politics and religion, this is a longstanding source of resentment for me. I’m pretty sure many people in my office think of my (and others’, presumably) silence about these topics as a lack of action. It is not. I am *actively* not talking about these subjects in the workplace because I don’t want to learn anything that will affect my relationship with people I have to work with. (Still haunted by the time I went on Facebook right after the 2012 election; I was looking for a friend’s address, and instead I found out a couple of my coworkers are kinda awful.)

      Meanwhile, people down the hall think nothing of laughing at other people’s religion or having political discussions on hot-button topics in the hallway. Grrr…

    2. Honeybee*

      Honestly, I believe this, too. Personally, I feel uncomfortable discussing politics at work, and I am someone who is very invested in politics in my personal life. There are just way too many ways it can go wrong.

  3. Katniss*

    Honestly, I don’t want to hear my Trump-supporting coworkers talk about it AT ALL, because it is all hurtful right now. Because of this piece of it:

    “Accept that in the aftermath of last week’s election, some of your co-workers may be grieving. Many people whose candidate didn’t win have serious worries about what the results will mean for their own lives (including in regard to things like health care) and the lives of those they care about.”

    So hearing them talk about it is, to me, hearing them revel in my own suffering.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      So would you be okay talking about politics if your candidate had won? Because I don’t think you can ask for it both ways.

      1. Anonymous of course*

        +1 And maybe the people who voted for the winner don’t what to hear how how terrible they are and (fill in your insult of choice).

        1. J.B.*

          Also, this is not a normal election in terms of the extremeness of some of the positions. “I disagree with so-and-so’s policies” is very different from “if you don’t like the results of this election/thing said by the winner then shut your mouth”.

      2. J.B.*

        Yes. I never want to talk politics at work. At least at my workplace politics talk is minimal other than the impacts that need to be addressed.

      3. Mustache Cat*

        Honestly I think Katniss was just giving a perspective that realistically acknowledges that one side lost and one side won. But yes, talking about politics at work right now is likely a bad idea.

        1. Annie Moose*


          We’ve talked a little politics at my work, and it’s been OK because people are respectful to each other and are willing to hear each other out rather than shut down and only hear what you want to hear (and they don’t force people to get included)… but even though it’s gone about as well as it possibly could, I still would prefer if we didn’t talk about it at all.

      4. Elsajeni*

        You know, I actually agree — I think it’s more pronounced after this election than after most, and of course there are elections where that grief and anxiety seems more well-founded and ones where it seems like a bit of an overreaction, but really, that point is true to some extent of every election. Elections are high-stakes! People feel very strongly about the outcome! Don’t pressure them to talk about it if they don’t want to, and don’t gloat if your candidate won.

        1. Miss Displaced*

          This has been a terrible election cycle and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this pronounced since the Nixon days. One side is steadfast in a refusal to accept defeat, while the other seems to be quickly becoming emboldened to squash any and all forms of disagreement or dissent. Neither is a good place for America to be in.
          Best not to talk about it at work. I also predict this to make many a miserable Thanksgiving dinner.

          1. Augusta Sugarbean*

            Well, then people need to be adults and find other topics to discuss. Good grief, this election isn’t the only thing going on in the world!

            This isn’t directed particularly at you, Miss D. I just think it’s silly that so many people are acting like it’s a law that we Must Discuss The Election at every possible gathering and OMG it’s going to destroy Thanksgiving! I mean the whole pop culture image of American Thanksgiving is of two disparate groups sitting down for a meal together.

            My vote is for good sportsmanship on both sides and turn the debate to what form potatoes should take at the meal.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I don’t think people think they must discuss the election—I think it’s taking up a lot of emotional/mental space for many people, and those folks are having a hard time processing what happened and what’s happening (on both sides). My extended fam is politically diverse and avoids these topics (mostly to avoid hurt feelings or bad arguments), and this is the first election where they’re all having a hard time filtering. Truthfully we could probably all use talk therapy for having lived through this 1.5-year dumpster fire, but I’m a little more understanding because the dynamics of this campaign were so out of the norms.

      5. Jenna*

        I have been the person whose candidate won, and I kept my mouth shut about it at work. I really don’t want to rub salt in anyone’s wounds, and if they are political, and care, that’s what it would do. I need to work with these people, and it’s easier if we keep it just work based.
        On that note, I wasn’t Facebook friends with ANY of my coworkers till the branch was shut down and some wanted to keep in touch. We were all so good at keeping to work subjects that I was (and they probably were) rather surprised when we finally discovered each other’s politics.

      6. INTP*

        In a past election, my candidate won, and a coworker who made several times my salary basically held the receptionist and I hostage to talk about how much money this was going to cost him (~my salary). I certainly didn’t find that acceptable. And yet, I just kind of waited for him to be done with his pity party, and did NOT respond with gleeful gloating about all the things it meant for me (“yay! I get to have health insurance”).

        Basically, obviously I’m not going to be as personally upset by election talk when my candidate wins, and I do think there’s a big difference when people are upset about the results because it might cost them for money versus because it makes them feel unsafe, betrayed, and like half the country doesn’t respect their personhood. But in either case I think it’s best to be quietly happy and not discuss it at work and I certainly wouldn’t run around gloating just because I thought the right person won.

      7. Florida*

        I heard something today (I forget where) and it was talking the difference between celebrating and gloating. Celebrating is, “Yeah, my candidate won.” Gloating is, “Ha, ha! Your candidate lost.” There’s a big difference. I think is fair for the victors to be excited about it. It’s not fair for them to gloat about it.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Yes, it was: “(This is going to be a tricky one to discuss here while our no-election-talk rule is in effect, but I think it can be done.)”

    2. Temperance*

      Yep. My job involves working with disadvantaged groups of people. The cherry on top of the shit sundae that was my week last week was having to tell one of my clients (an undocumented immigrant with a pending U-visa application) that I couldn’t expedite her application, that there was nothing I could do to make the process faster, and I couldn’t give her any answers on any of her questions or make any promises about getting her a green card ASAP.

      1. SeekingBetter*

        From my experience seeing my family come to this country recently and eventually becoming U.S. permanent residents, the process of expediting applications for immigration never seem fast enough. For example, even back in the year 1975, when my father was able to come into the U.S. legally with his uncle as his sponsorship advocate, my father had to wait 8 years in order for the U.S. government to approve the application to stay as green card resident here in this country. And as far as I know, there’s really no way to get a person their green card expedited ASAP. Unless I’m wrong and haven’t heard it all.

        1. Temperance*

          Nope, you’re totally correct. There are some limited circumstances where it’s possible, but having anxiety about the election isn’t one.

    3. alexalapitica*

      This is my situation and my whole office is basically Trump supporters. I’m a black woman, and while I suppose a few of us voted for Trump, most of us realize this will have a tangible negative impact on our lives. This is not about me not liking a certain tax policy or gun control or any other normal political issue – this is about a man who has specifically incited hate and violence against minorities. I can’t pretend to be ok with that. I was hoping election talk would stop after, you know, the ELECTION, but people keep going on about it.

  4. Rincat!*

    This is a good guide for how to talk about anything non-work in the workplace. I think the number 1 rule is: respect others when they say they don’t want to talk about something! I loved the part about trapped bystanders, it’s especially important if you’re in an open office plan.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      Agree. I still recall the “Obamacare” wars waged by two gentlemen in my row at work who delighted to argue with each other intermittently throughout the day about this and other topics. Someone finally asked them to just IM each other their arguments so the rest of us could enjoy work.

      1. Rincat!*

        I used to work in an open office plan and there were two guys that loved to talk about finances, the stock market, economics, etc all day. Nothing really controversial, but it grated on my nerves since they did it all. day. long. We often asked them to reign it in but they’d slip back into it pretty quickly. Wish we had IM at that company! It could have saved me from hearing endless conversations about finances I never wanted to know.

      1. Hotstreak*

        I wish my coworkers had read that! At a small meeting last week a coworker remarked he was “really glad we don’t have a woman president” and another remarked she “was glad that after the past 8 years we finally have an attractive first lady”. I really wished I was not in the room, regardless of my personal political views.

        1. Annie Moose*

          All right, look, hopefully this doesn’t qualify as political but I just gotta say something: who on earth doesn’t think Michelle Obama is an attractive, classy-looking lady?? Her outfits are always so lovely, to boot!

            1. Annie Moose*

              That… is a sad but probably true interpretation that I had not previously considered. :(

              But she’s such a lovely woman! I don’t agree with everything she’s ever said or done, but she seems like a great person! I don’t get racists, I really don’t…

            2. Kelly L.*


              Like, I know looks are subjective and not everyone is everyone’s cup of tea and yadda yadda, but I literally can’t think of anything wrong with her looks. She’s literally on the cover of Vogue right now.

              Also, even if she were unattractive, since when has model-level beauty been a prerequisite of being First Lady? When I look back at all the First Ladies throughout history, most of them just looked like someone’s grandma, because they were. Jackie was unusual for being young, glamorous, and a trendsetter. And now Michelle is too, but it would be fine even if she weren’t.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                I mean, look at Eleanor Roosevelt, for example. She has always been my favorite first lady, and it isn’t because she was any kind of a looker or anything. It is because she seemed like a strong, down-to-earth person who advocated values for which I admire her. Now, for me, Michelle Obama is right up there with Eleanor Roosevelt, and for the same reasons. She happens to be youngish and stylish and attractive, but I admire her for the values that she represents.

            3. Rat in the Sugar*

              Hey now, for some people that may be why, but that’s not the only reason. Someone can think she’s unattractive without being racist–personally, I always thought she has a heavy brow which is not attractive to me. The white singer Jessie J has the same kind of brow, just not my thing. While plenty of people may be using “unattractive” as some kind of dog whistle, no one is attractive to everyone.

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yeah, this. See, e.g., the West Virginia mayor who just resigned over a racist email regarding the current First Lady.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ugh. Or, you know, they could remember that women’s appearances have nothing to do with their value/worth. That sort of comment is just gross. I’ve been really disgusted by all the super sexist and appearance-driven language regarding the current and future First Ladies.

      2. Jenna*

        One of the reasons to not talk politics at work is that unless you are the boss, or have the resources to just quit, EVERYONE is to some degree trapped.
        If someone doesn’t want to talk about something, let them have the boundary and move on to work stuff.

      1. Otra*

        What do you do if your boss brings it up to you? I feel comfortable disagreeing or saying I don’t want to talk about it. He has completely opposite views as I do.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You have to be willing to say that. But it doesn’t need to be confrontational. It can just be something like, “Ugh, I’m really trying to have a politics black-out right now, so let’s talk about kittens instead.”

          1. Otra*

            Ooops I meant to say *uncomfortable* bringing it up but I guess you got the point.

            It was very awkward and I kind of just smiled and listened to what he had to say without talking to much. I hope he doesn’t bring it up again!

            1. Otra*

              That’s a good idea, but my boss and I don’t have that kind of relationship. He is more a baby-boomer/authoritarian boss.

          2. Honeybee*

            Yeah, this is how I did it. I made it clear to multiple people that I was avoiding election-related talk and news because it was too stressful for me. Most people generally respected that. (Smiling and nodding did not work, however.)

    1. neverjaunty*

      That’s a little hard when politics are integrally tied to your job – say, when a piece of pending legislation is going to strongly affect the entire company and all the employees in it.

      But arguing politics at work, yeah, don’t, unless you do so privately with like-minded folks.

      1. Mike C.*

        Or situations where things like data/forecasting models are what you do and it seems perfectly natural to look at what’s being reported.

      2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        This. We have a rule that you can only talk about politics if it actually relates to the work you are doing, and we really try to keep it focused on project impact rather than feelings. And we apply the rule to local elections as much as our recent national election.

    2. PatPat*

      Yes, I totally agree! A colleague buttonholed me the day after the election to discuss his grief, dismay, and worry assuming that I shared his beliefs, which mostly I did but not for the reasons he probably thought. I felt deeply uncomfortable that he had brought up the topic and wanted a polite – and quick – way out. I was really surprised that he even brought it up and really wished he hadn’t!

    3. AnonAnalyst*

      Agree 100%. I’m usually able to sit these conversations out or politely excuse myself, but I often end hearing them anyway since all of the companies I have worked for have had open plan offices. Unfortunately, I have learned that there are some really ugly sides to some of the people I have worked with which definitely impacted my view of them. I’d rather just be blissfully unaware of my coworkers’ political leanings.

    4. Rachel*

      That’s my general rule, unless it’s in the context of something that directly affects my work.

      I will say, though, that at a previous job I shared an office with someone who was on the same page with me politically. When we wanted to talk about something political, we just closed our office door and discussed.

    5. Barney Barnaby*

      Just my belief: if you are really “into” politics, and not just some hack who rants on Facebook, you should be somewhat acquainted with the beliefs and motivations of the other side, a few positives about any candidate running against your preferred person, and understand why people vote the way they do (even if you stridently disagree with it).

      Start anything with the honest words “I understand (insert a fair, rational version of the other person’s position),” or don’t talk politics in the office.

      For those actively involved in politics outside of work, the mechanics of it are the same regardless of what side you’re on: write op-eds, knock doors, recruit candidates, do policy research, phone bank, drop off yard signs, etc.

      If you just focus on that part of it, office life is fine. Just talk about how crowded the polls were, the cute kids who held a bake sale out front of the polling station, how late you were up crunching numbers, or that time someone almost ran you over when you were putting out yard signs.

    6. Fafaflunkie*

      + infinity. At least here in Canuckistan, what happened south of here last week didn’t engage the coworkers as much as it did the #@*$(&! media!

  5. hermit crab*

    Alison, I assume you don’t choose/recommend the linked cross-references on these Inc. pieces, right? (I mean the links to other Inc. content, like on “cause tension” in the first paragraph.) In any case, the fact that the “depth of feeling” one links to a piece on hugging at work is making me giggle right now.

      1. hermit crab*

        Yes, I meant U.S. News. I kept mousing over the links and wondering if they were assigned by a computer. A lot of them are really close to being relevant to the sentence — but they don’t quite make it!

  6. Jesmlet*

    Because both candidates were familiar to us (in more than a ‘we watch them on TV’ kind of way), politics was bound to come up in our office. My boss talked pretty frequently about the election and I was lucky enough to agree with a lot of what he said but I can only imagine how uncomfortable it would have been had I disagreed. These conversations should be avoided unless you know everyone around you is comfortable in engaging and won’t be offended – and that’s a pretty high bar so I’d say just don’t talk about it.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      Yes, in 2012 I had a boss casually say something awful about the character of one of the candidates, and I didn’t feel at all empowered to speak up without consequence. I’m sure she took my silence as assent, which was an additional frustration.

    2. Wendy Darling*

      I’ve been religiously avoiding discussion of politics at work this year because I already don’t respect my boss or coworkers much because they’re not very good at their jobs or kind to the people whose work the company depends on. I suspect they have some political views I would find repugnant, and if I lose any more respect for some of them it will create a respect paradox wherein I actually have negative respect and the world will flip inside out.

      But if someone does bring it up I try to deflect with a good old nonpartisan “Oof, I’m all politics-ed out! How are your kids doing/how was your vacation/how is your pet?”

  7. anon for this*

    I wish some of my coworkers would understand this. Even the ones who voted for the same candidate I did don’t understand that their concerns are different than my concerns (if anything, the immediate reaction pinpointed how much my left-leaning workplace is well-meaning but oblivious to anyone in a marginalized group beyond gender). I’ve definitely felt as alienated by people who vote the same as I do as people who vote opposite merely because some people assume voting for the same candidate mean we 100% share the same beliefs and concerns. And correcting them either outs me as different from the norm or is an awkward situation I don’t feel belongs at work.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      Agree- and I’ve found in “closed groups” where it’s assumed that everyone agrees, people feel free to say things with the worst possible spin. It’s the equivalent of starting every sentence with “Well you know how THOSE PEOPLE are.”

      1. anon for this*

        Yeah. I’m as liberal as they come, but I grew up poor and I’m always uncomfortable when the “poor, uneducated” rhetoric comes up because being poor doesn’t automatically mean you’re uneducated and being uneducated doesn’t automatically mean you’re a bigot. There was a lot of classism from both sides this time around.

        I have the same issue when “closed groups” talk about feminism, since in my experience it tends to default to feminism that revolves around white, heterosexual, christian, middle class women, and this was a huge issue this election season and especially in the aftermath of the election. When my coworkers assume their views about feminism are the same as mine even though I don’t fit all those majority boxes, it’s a little alienating.

        1. Annie Moose*

          > “There was a lot of classism from both sides this time around.”

          I was thinking the very same thing! Both sides seemed to spend a lot of time talking about how supportive they were of [group of poor/lower-class people on “their side”] while denigrating [group of poor/lower-class people on the “other side”] in sometimes extremely condescending ways. And nobody seemed to be going, wait a minute, there’s jobless people on both sides of the spectrum, where’s the plan to help all of them rather than focusing on one group or the other?

          It was all about the big talking points to drum up support in your particular favored group… not born out of concern for poor Americans as a whole.

          (and on the subject of closed groups–economic discussions are the WORST for this sort of thing. A group of middle class people assume everyone in the US is middle class, a group of the wealthy assume everyone’s wealthy…)

          1. Anonymous of course*

            Where I live we used to have 2 township commissions who were so sure that as senior citizens theyknew exactly what all senior citizens wanted. Was very happy when they both retired from political life.

        2. Case of the Mondays*

          I know it is not your job to educate me but as a white woman who identifies as a feminist, I’d love to learn more about what common views about feminism are alienating to those with a different background than mine so I can be more inclusive.

          1. Clever Name*

            There’s a lot of articles going around now about how feminism has historically been a movement of white women and the experiences of women of color are ignored, downplayed, or outright shut out. Google terms like “intersectional feminism”.

          2. Dankar*

            This is probably the most respectful request for information I’ve ever seen! It’s heartening, to say the least. :)

          3. OhNo*

            I know this isn’t much immediate information, but try googling “white feminism”. That seems to bring up a lot of articles by POC with some interesting critiques.

            1. Case of the Mondays*

              Thanks. I read one quick article and will read more in depth when I’m not at work. Some of the issues missed by white feminism may be overlooked because people expect them to be covered by anti-racism or LGBT support groups. I previously thought feminism fought sexism while other groups addressed the other issues. We don’t really have a word like feminism for people that fight against racism, do we?

              1. Formica Dinette*

                I really do appreciate your willingness to learn and interest in being inclusive, but please do some more reading before making statements like, “Some of the issues missed by white feminism may be overlooked because people expect them to be covered by anti-racism or LGBT support groups.” Many people would consider that inflammatory. I’m not calling you out for it, just letting you know.

              2. Emma*

                The problem is, sexism can affect different groups different ways. It’s not that feminists need to also be fighting racism and so on all by themselves – more like, feminists need to recognize that, say, the priorities of women of color might not match the priorities of white feminists, or that historically we’ve been oppressed in different ways.

                Some things are the same, of course, but some are different – but white feminists tend to assume that everything about their experience is both universal and most important, and anytime anyone argues, we’re hit with exactly what you said here – that other groups are supposed to address racism or homophobia. But my race and my lesbianism can’t be divorced from how sexism impacts me, either, so I can’t divorce my feminism from anti-racism or anti-homophobia.

              3. anon for this*

                This is actually the biggest issue with the feminist movement and has been since the first and second waves (a lot of the big name feminists have been pretty bigoted in one way or another). Expecting that sexuality, race, class, and religion is covered by sexuality, race, class, and religion groups insinuates that you (and I mean the general “you”) think feminism is a single issue topic and that everyone deals with feminism the same way.

                People are more than just their gender. Your gender is impacted by your race, religion, class, and sexuality. Talking about, say, healthcare and abortion and birth control varies drastically based on class, race, religion, and sexuality. White feminism loves to talk about female healthcare without admitting or acknowledging that most of the time they’re talking to white women who have access to healthcare through their jobs or spouses and who won’t struggle to find doctor’s who will see them and not turn them away based on race, class, religion, or sexuality. It’s targeting female health towards people who have money to buy birth control or who’ve had the privilege of sex ed (and don’t get me started on how female focused sex ed ignores queer women entirely),

                Being told that race, class, religion, or sexuality is not a problem and should be covered elsewhere is alienating. You can’t remove those labels from your gender and having a large majority of a group tell you to do so is pretty oblivious and inflammatory. Not all women are the same and feminism needs to respect and understand that.

              4. Honeybee*

                You’re absolutely right, but that’s the reason why a lot of women of color, queer women, and women in other minority groups don’t identify with feminism (which is largely white-dominated). Many of us feel like feminism neglects the issues that intersect most heavily with our lives and identities. My identity isn’t a fractured scattering of pieces – I’m a queer woman of color, but a woman who is also queer and also black. All of the pieces integrate to make up who I am, and I can’t shed pieces of me and stop caring about them to think only about one other piece or whatnot.

                I do identify as a feminist, but I admit – it’s not enthusiastically.

              5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                There’s a lot of great literature and critiques on intersectional feminism, including a great deal of work that challenges the idea that advocacy related to different aspects of a person’s identity should be piecemealed (which also often erases or invisibilizes the contributions of non-cisgender white, middle- to upper-class straight women, and consequently, can be really offensive, as noted by Formica). Aside from Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman” speech at Seneca Falls, a good book for a first dive is All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, But Some Of Us Are Brave. There are also lots of syllabi and reading lists available online that can guide you through your readings and identify future things to look at.

          4. Emma*

            Well, some of it is the idea that the most important form of discrimination I face is sexism. This isn’t just about race, either; it’s come up with class and other groups, too. There’s this idea that I hear a lot from some feminists that I should never side with other men over any woman, that I should be working to solve sexism first, even that sexism is the root of all other discrimination, so that somehow, fixing sexism would also fix racism, classism, ableism, and homophobia. I get especially annoyed at this with regard to homophobia, because some feminists are so determined to push the “homophobia is just another form of sexism” thing that they kind of ignore homophobia itself, or the way in which many feminists are still homophobic or transphobic. (The transphobia rampant in certain segments of feminism is something I don’t feel like touching right now.)

            For an example, I’ve seen a lot of obliviousness among white feminists when it comes to police brutality and protests against it. Not all white feminists, obviously, but I’ve seen many who are shockingly oblivious to the fact that police brutality is a problem, or who pull the whole “well, the protests are just as bad” thing, or who are shocked to learn that many women of color don’t actually consider the police allies. I’ve also seen white feminists say that women of color should be focusing more on sexism than siding with men of color, and who’ve snidely dismissed WOC who do protest police racism and brutality as “standing by their men.” Never mind that police racism and brutality also affects WOC – there’s a segment of white feminists that seems to still buy into the violent man of color idea, and who thus think that women of color siding with their men on this is the women subordinating themselves to men’s needs.

            There’s also a way in which a lot of white feminists kind of hide behind sexism as a way to excuse their own racism – I’ve heard a number of arguments that, basically, we should be blaming white men for both sexism and racism, and because white women aren’t as privileged as white men, we can’t blame them for their own racism.

            Addressing the “Christian” part anon for this mentions, it can get weirdly alienating when feminists talk like everyone’s struggling to square feminism with their religion, or like religion itself is automatically the great oppressor of women.

            But basically, it can be summed up by this idea that what white, middle-class, straight Christian (and, I’d add, Western) women face needs to be addressed first, and only then will there be time and energy to devote to the problems others face. There’s also this assumption of a kind of default woman inherent in that, where if it’s not part of what that white, middle-class, etc. group experiences it’s not as important.

            And none of this is to say feminism’s not important, or that white, middle-class, straight, Christian, Western women aren’t facing sexism that definitely needs to be addressed. And a lot of what white/etc. women face is stuff that women of other groups also face. But feminism can be awfully narrow sometimes, and sometimes in odd ways.

            1. Unsigned*

              It’s one of the legacies of thirty five years of backlash, the loss of much of the texture of feminism. Second wave feminism at its peak was many feminisms. In my teens I read feminist writing by British miners wives (who well understood police brutality), women immigrants from India, the Carribean, and South America, women revolutionaries from South America and anti-apartheid activists from South America, Russian and Eastern European women, abortion activists from America, peace protestors from Europe, Black women from America and the Caribbean, mothers, single women, straight women, lesbians, sex workers, Marxist feminists, Christians, atheists, Buddists, pagans, Ecowarriors and scientists. They were published by magazines, journals and presses that have long since folded or been folded into bigger commercial operations, on not very durable paper, in not very large numbers. They suffered the fate that radical writers often do, society being very good at filtering out all but ‘acceptable’ voices. Add to that thirty five years of being told that feminism is irrelevant and trivial and only matters to a minority, and here we are, believing there was only one form of feminism.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Thank you for taking the time to write this, Emma. It’s thorough and excellent.

          5. bearing*

            Historically the words “womanism” and “womanist” were used, at least for a time, by people who recognized the absence of certain voices from white-centered feminism. I am not passing a value judgment on the use of the term, and I am not sure how up to date it is, just giving you another word to use in your google search.

          6. Honeybee*

            Here are some good resources!

            In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose, Alice Walker
            Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, Patricia Hill Collins
            Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, bell hooks
            Ain’t I A Woman? Black Women and Feminism, bell hooks
            Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Audre Lorde
            Women, Race, & Class, Angela Y. Davis
            Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought, Beverly Guy-Sheftall
            The Black Woman: An Anthology, Toni Cade Bambara
            From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism, Patricia Hill Collins

            Most of these are from the perspective of African American women, primarily because I am an African American woman and that’s the perspective I’m familiar with. But I know there are also writings from women skeptical of feminism who have disabilities, who are lesbian, bisexual, queer, and/or trans, who are Muslim, who are from outside the Western world, and from other marginalized groups.

          7. Chinook*

            Also, white feminism originally came from a distinct WASP background (both in the US and Canada). I am always shocked when I remember that the Famous Five women who won the right to be recognized as persons under the law in Canada (they took it all the way up to Britain’s high court) were also anti-alcohol, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and anti-francophone (which makes me 4 for 4 as a white woman they probably would politely hate). While I appreciate that they made significant strides that benefit me, it really is hard to celebrate them fully because some of what they supported are things I am fundamentally against (eugenics, prohibition). Luckily, the women’s group I am part of started up soon after they won because it came quite clear that these 5 were definitely not representing every female voice, just the ones that agreed with them politically, religiously and morally.

            I think the biggest thing any feminist can do is to remember that they are not a homogeneous block and assumptions can’t be made based even on the colour of the skin they support. And that the women (and men) who have worked for the feminist cause are not spotless saints but real people with real prejudices and real personalities and life experiences. If we can see them as humans, with all their faults, then maybe we can make room for a larger diversity of voices.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              And an affluent one—poor and working class women weren’t really treated as equals or even considered worthy of such consideration by first wave feminists (and I would argue the second wave, too).

        3. Engineer Girl*

          This. I’m a rocket scientist that came from a rural area and most of my family work in the factories or as farmers. Please don’t tell me that I or my family are uninformed rubes. We’ve had great discussions with lots of subtle viewpoints.
          Part of the issue is putting labels on people. Those are absolute and rarely reflect the nuanced positions most people have.

          1. Chinook*

            “This. I’m a rocket scientist that came from a rural area and most of my family work in the factories or as farmers. Please don’t tell me that I or my family are uninformed rubes. We’ve had great discussions with lots of subtle viewpoints.”

            It was an eye opening discussion to learn that I am viewed as an uneducated redneck because I am from rural Alberta by those I worked with in my nation’s capital. They were absolutely shocked to learn of my university education, multilingualism (both for me and within my family), my world travel and the fact that I had lived in multiple provinces (whereas the person who was shocked by these facts had never left Southern Ontario except for a holiday in Mexico). I was automatically labeled as falling in line with our Alberta based Prime Minister who was universally hated.

            What got me is that those who labeled me and my redneck kind literally didn’t understand the nuances and subtleties of our political beliefs and practices. To them it was black and white and I was automatically wrong whereas I grew up learning to listen to both sides and hear what was being said before deciding. I was also taught that, sometimes, you can still agree to disagree so that you can work together on the things that either need to get done or that you can both agree on.

    2. Princess Carolyn*

      I’ve felt similarly, but for different reasons. I’m a progressive white woman in a smaller city in a decidedly red state, and the amount of “Screw you, bumpkins! Let’s just give the square states back to Mexico!” I’m hearing from people I thought were my allies is really tough. I mean, whatever, I can take it… and, unlike other populations, I’m under no real threat from this rhetoric. But it still makes me feel invisible.

    3. So Very Anonymous*

      So much this. I’ve been just as upset by how alienated I feel from people who voted the way I did.

      1. anon for this*

        Unfortunately, I’m not too surprised by it since I feel like this a lot when it’s not an election season, but the election just made it more visible and made me more adamant about not talking about politics at work.

      2. Dankar*

        Same here. It really feels as though I have no community to commiserate with, even though I was definitely in the same camp as most of the population in my state. I worry that that alienation is only going to get worse in the next few years.

        (And that’s as overtly political as I’ll be getting here!)

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          I’m in a state the opposite color of how I voted, and I can barely handle social media because I feel so alienated from more vocal people who voted my way. In my case it reeeeeeeally doesn’t help that my workplace is unfriendly and extremely poor at any kind of communication, because just some baseline politeness/professionalism would be a good thing.

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      Me too. I have been working from home as much as possible or wearing headphones when I have to go to work.

    5. Observer*


      Some of the worst conversations I have had were with people who actually voted for the same candidate that I did. Most of the people across the aisle actually shared my concerns about “my” candidate – they just thought that the other candidate was worse. So, we could have a conversation.

      1. anon for this*

        Definitely. I sometimes felt like even airing my concerns about “my candidate” made me look like bad to people who really liked that candidate. Because if I say that both candidates have a bad track record with marginalized groups I belong to, but one is a little better than the other, some of my coworkers get defensive (and again, this is coworkers on both sides).

        It turned into a weird, uncomfortable situation where my coworkers who aren’t part of those marginalized groups didn’t really understand that I thought one candidate would be bad for people like me but that I thought the other wouldn’t be bad so much as they wouldn’t do anything further to help people like me (and while I’d rather the status quo over things getting worse, a lot more still needs to get done).

        I just find a lot of people only see social and political issues as black and white rather than looking at all the shades of grey. I think both sides are guilty of having people who think their politician was perfect and anyone who had concerns about them was wrong. It’s pretty alienating when people who are supposedly on the same side as you dismiss your concerns because they can’t be objective and look at something from someone else’s shoes.

    6. Honeybee*

      +1 million. My office is actually largely on the same political “side” as I am, but ironically, the ones who agree with me are the ones I have felt the most alienated from this election season. I don’t agree with all of their reasons and I get the sense that most of them assume that I do, particularly since I am a queer woman of color.

  8. J.B.*

    I would add to this: be aware of racial tensions and be ready to back off conversations entirely. Part of the rhetoric was not just divisive but that and following events were very very scary. Beyond basic work conversation and work related politeness, your coworker may not want to engage socially. It’s probably not about you but the larger picture.

  9. SlickWilly*

    This applies to CEO broadcasts too, right? I don’t need the CEO to write an all-company e-mail or do an all-hands to console me about what is perceived to be an election tragedy. All that does is reveal that the workplace disagrees with the winner of the election. If Clinton had won, would every CEO have felt the urge to write consoling, coddling messages to their staff? I doubt it.

    It’s not to say I think the election outcome was great. I don’t. I just don’t need a company wide pity-party to help me get over it.

    1. Jesmlet*

      I was going to ask about the legalities of what GrubHub CEO did but decided against it because of the election talk moratorium but I’m still very curious if the language used could constitute discrimination in the workplace or something.

      1. SlickWilly*

        Since it doesn’t discriminate against a protected class, I’m guessing that nothing legally could be done, but it does seem like a situation ripe for lawsuits should anyone quit because of the hostile note.

        1. fposte*

          There aren’t grounds to sue, though. They might get unemployment given that their resignation was requested, but even that’s iffy.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          That’s interesting, because I generally find it off-putting when a company injects tribalism into the discussion in any way. Especially when I agree with them. I try not to read anything about the politics or beliefs* of the companies/actors I enjoy. The last thing I want to find out is that Benedict Cumberbatch is secretly a big anti-vaccine guy who loves both Jermy Corbyn and Donald Trump somehow. It ruins my enjoyment of the thing to have politics inserted into it.

          *some caveats for human trafficking, work conditions, and similar issues

          1. Hotstreak*

            “Especially when I agree with them.”

            I agree, it feels like I’m being pandered to, and I want the company to use their resources to provide better cheaper products.. not spread a political message.

            1. BenAdminGeek*

              That’s a great way to say it! It does feel like pandering. Like, “You Christians are so dumb you’ll buy any sandwich we sell you” or “We’re good liberals here, so buy our not-as-good dishwasher detergent.”

              1. Hotstreak*

                “Woman owned company” being a common one. Like, now you WANT me to judge you differently based on your gender? Geesh. (that may not be the intent, but that’s the way it looks to me).

                1. Pennalynn Lott*

                  I feel the exact same way with businesses that have the Christian “fish” logo (or bible versus or other religious paraphernalia) on their branded company vehicles and advertising material. Is that supposed to make me want to choose them over the non-religiously decorated businesses? Or is it a signal that they only want to have Christian customers? Why is it even there? Why would I care if the person mowing my lawn, snaking my toilets or selling me craft-making doo-dads is a Christian? It’s so confusing!!

      2. Crazy Canuck*

        In Canada, human rights laws are usually handled at the provincial level. Political belief is a prohibited ground of discrimination in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, Newfoundland, NWT, Yukon, BC and Manitoba. On the other side, it is not protected in Ontario, Nunavet, Alberta, Saskatchewan, or under federal laws.

        I had to look this up last week, as one of our field guys and his helper got into it over the US election, and things got … heated. It ended with the field guy wanting to fire his helper, and he got real choked when he found out he couldn’t.

        As for me, I simply refuse to talk about politics at work. That’s what the internet is for.

    2. hermit crab*

      If it’s just pure politics, then no, but I do think it’s entirely appropriate for company leadership to share information that’s relevant to business, and that can definitely be linked to election outcomes. For example, if one of Candidate A’s campaign promises is to reduce funding for Agency X, and Agency X is the company’s primary client, then it makes sense for management to write an email about the business implications.

    3. Princess Carolyn*

      I’m not a huge fan of CEOs taking political stances, but there’s a big difference between saying “People of color, women, and LGBT people are still welcome at this company and we value your humanity” and saying “Let’s all console each other because we don’t like the direction in which this country’s moving.” The difference is that the loser of this election never threatened to persecute and deport specific sections of the population.

      I would feel differently if we were talking Bush vs. Gore or Obama vs. Romney or something.

      1. Gregory*

        Yeah, I don’t want to break the no-election-talk rule but pretending this situation is the same as any election is part of the normalization of he-who-shall-not-be-named which is really dangerous. It goes beyond party politics in this case and becomes about the rights and safety of marginalized groups.

        1. Abbie*

          Thank you! I understand the need for break from the madness, but I struggle with staying quiet on this. Silence is a privilege.

    4. Jubilance*

      As a Black American, I appreciated that my company held a forum for people to discuss. I’m afraid, like a lot of people, as I’m in more than one demographic that Trump targeted with his rhetoric, and in my area people who look like me have been threatened and assaulted. I appreciated that my company reaffirmed their commitment to diversity and inclusion and gave folks space to talk about their feelings, including their worry about their safety. I don’t see that as a “pity-party”.

      1. SlickWilly*

        The “pity party” I had in mind pertained to some leaked e-mails from tech companies that were very much in that category. Honestly, it sounds like what your company did was right and helpful. Thanks for sharing. Logically, you could say that if a company was inclusive, protective, and caring of diversity on November 8, they should be exactly the same on November 9. But it felt like logic was twisted a bit last week.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I appreciated that my company reaffirmed their commitment to diversity and inclusion and gave folks space to talk about their feelings, including their worry about their safety. I don’t see that as a “pity-party”.

        Exactly. Our university chancellor immediately sent out a campus-wide letter restating the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and gave links to several campus organizations that will be holding space for people to talk about their feelings and concerns. There have already been several incidents around our town and campus of people threatening and harassing people in the demographics targeted by Trump’s rhetoric.

        1. fposte*

          MJI, I can’t remember–are you guys public or private? We’re public, so therefore we really are limited on what politically can happen in the workplace, and while there’s been a lot of discussion space provided messages are crafted very carefully to be nonpartisan.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            We’re public. The links that were provided were for student groups who are organizing gatherings to hold conversations, so the gatherings are not from the university administration. Some of the student groups holding events are the international student association, black student groups, Muslim student groups, etc.

            1. So Very Anonymous*

              I’m at a public university (very large population, but a commuter school) and it seems like there’s been nothing at all in terms of discussion space. I don’t think there’s even been a general statement affirming the campus’ commitment to diversity (and we are a VERY diverse campus in a red state). I’ve been struggling even well before the election with how atomized and disconnected the university is. I’m appreciating the reminder to look for student group gatherings, as that’s relevant to my job, and might also be a space for me to be in even if only as an “adult” supporter.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                Wow, I’m sorry you’re having this struggle at your university. This makes me really appreciate that our chancellor took the leadership to affirm our diversity and inclusion, and to compile a list of links to student-led events for conversation and healing.

                1. So Very Anonymous*

                  Nothing like that at all. It’s been business as usual. I would love to have that kind of information!

              2. Pennalynn Lott*

                It sounds like the university I’m at. Mostly commuter, *great* business school, highly diverse student body (whites are definitely the minority in the business school, and I’m guessing it’s the same in the other schools just from walking around campus), we’re in a very red state. And nothing was ever said about the election. Ever. Anywhere. No campus groups, nothing. Just a bunch of crickets. :-)

                Which, to be honest, is kind of nice. It’s like the way I wish it could be in business: We’re here to work, not argue over politics. But it’s also odd because we’re at a public university and I would have expected *some* kind of discourse.

                Oh, also, one of my professors said something about how the tax laws might be changing with the new administration, but then hastily followed up with, “But we’re not allowed to discuss anything political.” Is that true of every public university [and, if so, how does the PoliSci department even function??] or is it just a policy at my school?

        1. SlickWilly*

          You might be part of the problem that brought a certain demagogue to power if you are going to call me racist without knowing anything about me.

      3. Honeybee*

        Yes, this. I’m a black American as well and I appreciate my company’s stance towards many politically-charged things that have happened in the past few months. It makes me feel welcomed and safe.

    5. Temperance*

      The results of the election greatly impacted my workload, which is now exponentially higher than it was last week … when it was high but manageable.

      Many of my coworkers volunteered for election protection work, both partisan and non, and I managed that program. Due to the nature of my business, many of us are quite politically active.

    6. Alton*

      This is a really fine line, though, when a lot of people actually feel threatened by the result of an election. There’s a tendency to approach politics as something that people should be able to compromise and be neutral on, and a lot of times, that works. But in practice, it’s hard to tell your LGBTQ employees that you support them, for example, but then take a neutral stance if a politician is elected who opposes their rights. I actually think it’s a problem that things like civil rights and hate crimes are sometimes treated like “political issues” on the same level as, say, a disagreement on how to handle national debt. I don’t really care if my company agrees with me on some of the more subjective and complex aspects of politics. But I do care about working for a company that doesn’t discriminate against minorities.

      I won’t comment specifically on this election, but sometimes the candidates in a race do not have equal impact and influence.

      1. Formica Dinette*

        Yes. Human rights issues may become political issues, but they are not merely political issues.

  10. De Minimis*

    At my workplace it’s hard to avoid–we can be greatly affected by the outcome, and in the past we’ve had major staff reductions due to the fallout from an election. I believe that the workforce is at least 90% comprised of the same political persuasion, but I can’t help but wonder what it might be like if there are a handful of people who don’t feel the same way. I imagine it would be very uncomfortable for them.

    I try to approach things from a more analytical standpoint instead of being for or against anything, that seems to have worked for me in the past.

    1. Mustache Cat*

      Yeah, same problem here. We may potentially be directly affected by the election (as well as the indirect effects, e.g. top researchers telling us they’re afraid to come into the country, etc). It’s hard to know how to discuss it.

  11. Eugenie*

    As somebody who was truly devastated by the election results, it was sooooo uncomfortable/depressing to come into work on Wednesday and have everybody act like it was just another workday. I work for a non-profit in a relatively progressive area, but many of my co-workers hold more conservative personal beliefs. Another employee (a woman of color) finally came into my office on Friday and said “I think you might feel how I feel this week” and we cried and hugged and knowing there was somebody else going through what I was going through made my work environment feel 1000% better (still pretty crappy, but a definite improvement).

    1. Anonymous of course*

      But see that’s part of the problem. It was just another work day. Nothing has changed yet. Obama is still president and Trump can’t do anything. And the way our country is run Trump will not be entering office and acting like a dictator.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I know I was asking for it with this topic, but there’s still a ban on election talk here so please let’s avoid specific lines of discussion like this. Thanks.

    2. kc89*

      My office was very somber with the majority taking that day to work from home, those with jobs that require them to physically be there were very quiet and gloomy for the most part. We really needed that one day just to be sad/depressed about what happened.

      1. Allison*

        Yup, I worked from home. I very honestly told my manager that I couldn’t be around people that day. And not even to avoid election talk, I just knew I’d be too gloomy to maintain the pleasant and positive demeanor a professional lady must have at all times.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        I made the mistake of scheduling a conference call for 8 am the next morning. Fortunately?, that was the only thing that convinced me to go to work.

    3. Purest Green*

      I think this is one of the reasons we need to move election day. The reasons that made Tuesday the best choice in the past are no longer credible reasons in the modern world.

    4. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I came in to my office on Wednesday morning, and one coworker met my eyes and broke into silent tears. There were just three of us in the office that day, as most of the faculty didn’t come in. So the other admins and I had a somber day of commiserating with one another and discussing the likely direct impact for people we know regarding issues of healthcare and personal safety. It was nice to be with people who share my own concerns, and if that hadn’t been the case, I probably would have just spent the day not talking about politics.

      1. Jennifer*

        I was lucky in that almost everyone here is of the same ilk, and the one Trump supporter was generally cheerful but not saying anything about politics.

    5. Clever Name*

      I had to be in for a 7:30 am meeting on Wed. That was fun. I went to bed pretty close to my usual bedtime so I wouldn’t be short on sleep (after all, me watching the results live won’t change them), but in all honesty, I tossed and turned all night. That early meeting was kind of dreadful.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I stayed up until 2:30 am on Election Night and got up at 6:00 Wednesday morning. I just couldn’t make myself go to bed until I knew what happened.

        1. Allison*

          Yupyupyup, I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I was certain. And by the time we were pretty sure, I was too tired to wait anymore.

        2. Jean*

          DH and I called it a night at 11:45 pm Tuesday. We were tired, the trend was clear, and we decided that we could get the last details in the morning. Then I woke up around 4:00 a.m. and immediately checked the Internet just to confirm events. Curiosity didn’t kill this cat (moi) but it prevented my going back to sleep.

          The sole benefit of not being employed is freedom from work-based political conversations. Even though I live in a majority-X county in a majority-X state (not specifying blue or red as per the terms of this discussion) there are still people of the opposite opinion. I was just in such an office: four people, three X and one Y. No hostility because we were respectful and stayed away from the most hot-button topics.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I got into a stubborn mood of half, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over” and half willing more votes to come through and change what I refused to believe. Basically I was holding a willful, disbelieving vigil.

  12. AndersonDarling*

    In my part time job, I work one on one with clients and when big political issues are on their minds, they will rant without thinking that I may have an opposing view. Clients have said some really insensitive things that blew me away. But they think I agree with them because they trust me with their care, and somehow that trust makes them think we are like minded in everything. So it is really a complement to my work and my relationship with my clients.
    I try to bring discussions away from political figures and into the big picture issues at hand. Otherwise I just let them say what they need to, and then I’m able to turn the conversation to something neutral once they burn off the steam.
    Luckily, my co-workers haven’t said a work about politics for the past year. It’s a blessing!

    1. SimontheGreyWarden*

      I have to do this in my work. It isn’t the same but I work one on one with students across every potential divide this country has (race, gender, sexuality, economic, disabilities, etc). These are a pretty strong mix of rural White students and inner-city minority students (American born and foreign-born). I hear a wide variety of political leanings and it is my responsibility to be a mirror and window. I may ask them why they believe something if I feel the particular student is open, but in general, I am a writing tutor and my place is not to tell anyone how they should feel about Candidate X or Policy Y, or even to ‘educate’ them about it. There are places and times to offer a quiet “hm” or “I’m not sure I think that” but I cannot be seen as co-opting their thoughts or expressions. I may insist on rewording or language choices if the issue is in a paper they bring to me, but just espousing views in the belief that I might agree isn’t something I can always disagree with.

    2. bearing*

      Your comment about it being a compliment to your work and client relationships puts a nice spin on it that had not occurred to me. Instead of fuming that someone “assumed they knew what side I was on,” perhaps I could appreciate that they have a connection with me and a certain level of trust, and see it as an unintended compliment.

      Doesn’t work for people who are deliberately trying to pull one’s chain, though…

    3. Maya Elena*

      Your comment is notable for being one of the few that actually avoids saying what your views are.

      Please accept a hat tip.

  13. Sami*

    “If you don’t think your co-worker’s political beliefs are deserving of your respect, take that as a sign that you shouldn’t be engaging in the conversation at work at all.”

    This is so important.

    1. LAP*

      I’d also add…if you perceive disrespect in any disagreement, that’s another sign you probably shouldn’t be discussing politics at work.

      I learned at a young age not to discuss politics in most situations, especially work. At best it’s just people hurling talking points at one another. At worst it quickly devolves into insults and hysterics, usually over a topic that has no bearing on daily life. Doesn’t seem worth it.

    2. Anonymous venting*

      Unfortunately the person whose beliefs I don’t respect is the one who is constantly starting the conversations. This office has fewer than five, so there’s NO escape.

      I had my windows open, freezing, Wednesday to drown out her voice, and again right now. I typed and deleted this once, and then she started up again…

      Every political belief I have been subjected to so far is founded in feelings based on ideas that are counter to verifiable fact.

      For non-political example, a few weeks ago I was greeted with “I just heard that Microsoft is going to cure all cancer in ten years using code!” The actual news item of the day was that Mark Zuckerberg had pledged $9B towards a goal of eliminating all disease by the end of the century. Another is that all teachers make $100k, retire with full pensions, and we should be able to unilaterally cut their pay and benefits despite union contracts.

      Any attempt to point out that her beliefs are counter to verifiable fact, are illegal or are un-Constitutional are met with cries of “But you HAVE to respect my opinions! You are an awful person for not respecting my beliefs!” Pointing out something violates the Constitution is inevitably met with “You just aren’t looking at the bigger picture!”

      I do not respect your beliefs, based as they are on things you have made up and mis-remembered, and I’m trying very, very hard to hang on to the shreds of respect I have left for you altogether, so will you please just STOP TALKING.

      1. Kristin D*

        Nothing grates on me more than the idea that we have to, at all costs and no matter what, accept the uninformed, grossly counter-factual opinions of other people simply because they’re “entitled to their opinion.” If I see one more think piece that tells me that I cannot think that even one single person might be uninformed or relying on information from a bad source, I might scream.

      2. Jean*

        There’s an expression that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but not to his or her own set of facts. I think that we can find this behavior on both sides of many issues. In some cases it is probably deliberate deception (and we can find examples of factual distortions _all_ across the political spectrum). In other cases it may be that uninformed people were hornswoggled by someone else’s malfeasance + their own lack of critical thinking and/or practice in evaluating an information source. Finally, it’s possible for people to blur the facts due to carelessness, laziness, or rhetorical over-enthusiasm–none of these are good but they’re not exactly the same as deliberately trying to hoodwink, bamboozle, or deceive people.

  14. Turanga Leela*

    This gets complicated at my organization, which works with government programs and is directly affected by shifts in federal policy. Our staff leans liberal, so some of us are operating through a lot of grief, and we’re also bracing for changes to funding and policy on the government programs we work with. I was explaining the likely impact of the election to someone last week, and I tried hard to keep a neutral tone, but ultimately there was no way to stay neutral on the message: we think that the new president and Congress will make changes that our organization opposes, and we will be playing defense for at least the next two years.

    So I can keep my personal feelings mostly to myself, but part of my job is also to be clear-headed about what this means for our organizational priorities, our fundraising, and the people we serve.

    1. Miss Displaced*

      Oh Jeez Turanga that sounds tough, especially working with programs that might be impacted. My thoughts are with you.
      I’m fortunate that, aside from a bit of discussion during the debates and a few day-after “ughs” and eye rolls, there was overall not a whole lot of political talk in the office.

    2. automaticdoor*

      This is what we were talking about on the Friday open thread–it’s super awful to be a lobbyist/advocate in… well, a lot of domestic areas now. Like, my job was already hard… but now… Our main issue is the funding cuts we’re likely to see. :( It’s tough! Like, we’re non-profit, so we need to stay neutral, but it’s no secret that one candidate wouldn’t have been supportive of these cuts.

  15. JHS*

    My secretary cornered me as I had my coat on and was walking out the door to pick up my kid the day before the election to tell me (COMPLETELY UNSOLICITED) all about her views–many of them repugnant to me. A lot of what she said was racist and offensive and I have never been so uncomfortable at work. I actually had to say “many people would find that incredibly offensive” and “you’re making me uncomfortable and I don’t think we should continue this conversation.” I couldn’t sleep that night because I was so stressed out (haha, didn’t realize it was about to get much, much worse the next night!). Things are so awkward now and she has been extremely standoffish to me even though I have attempted to act completely normal. My plan is to continue to act normal around her, but honestly, I just wish I didn’t know any of the things I now know about her. She is actually a really good secretary and, prior to that, we worked really well together and I had even emailed HR to say how great she was doing (she started a couple months ago). Now I’m seriously at a loss for what to think.

    1. Temperance*

      I would probably fire her, but I couldn’t stand to work with a sexist or racist and went nuclear on my family of origin for this reason.

      1. JHS*

        I actually spoke to two of my other colleagues (she supports all three of us) and one of my colleagues actually said, please don’t tell HR because she’s the first good secretary we’ve had. I have been seriously thinking about it though. What she said could contribute to a hostile working environment. Although I wasn’t one of the groups she railed against, there are others in our company who are and if I felt so uncomfortable and angry, I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to hear that if I were in one of the targeted groups. Our managing partner actually sent out a wonderful email saying that we respect all different political views, but we don’t accept racism, xenophobia or hatred based on religion or sexual orientation or gender identity. I thought it was really great. I am hoping she read it and applied it to herself, but I got the sense from our “conversation” that she is one of those racists who would say “what? me racist? I have a black friend!”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Having someone talk to her doesn’t mean she’ll get fired (in fact, that’s pretty unlikely for a first offense); it just means that someone will correct her behavior so that she doesn’t say offensive things at work in the future.

          1. JHS*

            I agree, Alison. It actually is on me, too, as her supervisor to tell her to knock it off. My feeling is that I told her it was offensive and that I felt uncomfortable and if she says anything else, I will address it with her and go to HR and have them address it with her too. Do you think it calls for more based on the one interaction?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Depends on your company’s policies. There’s benefit in HR knowing about in case they get future reports of it, so they can know she’s already been told once to knock it off. But on the other hand, as her manager, you’re presumably going to know if that happens anyway. I lean toward thinking a heads-up to them (“hey, this happened, here’s how I handled it”) is a good thing to do, but it varies based on your company.

              1. JHS*

                Thank you. That is very helpful! As I mentioned to someone else, I did informally tell one of my bosses about it so they are aware, but I will definitely mention it. My HR department is actually quite good and they are good at keeping things confidential as well.

    2. Annie Moose*

      Good on you for standing up to her! What a horribly awkward and uninvited situation she put you in. I hope you can continue to work professionally with her, but it can be awfully hard to do that when you realize you dislike or disagree with someone that deeply on a personal level.

      If you think she might start up something similar again in the future, it might help to come up with/practice some things to say ahead of time… even if it’s just repeating “I don’t want to discuss this, I need to go” and walking away or something like that. Cut her off before she gets going, to avoid having to hear any of it. Maybe it seems a little rude, but it’s way more rude to corner someone into a political discussion they don’t want to have, about things they strongly disagree with.

      1. JHS*

        Yes, thank you! My husband actually helped me practice things to say to her! It’s just so weird to me that people think that others will just agree with them when they are spewing crazy vitriol. I can understand voting for the political party I am not aligned with and that there are many policy issues on which we can disagree, but the racist invective she was spewing went so far beyond that.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Can this be reported to HR? I mean, to document it, just in case it escalates. Like a note in her file. “Mary attempted to initiate a conversation on Monday, November 7. The conversation contained several references to [list them] XYZ Company has designated as unacceptable due to diversity policies [if that’s the case–or “contained several references to X that I found objectionable.”]. I asked Mary to stop the conversation by saying [what you said] and she did. This incident is noted for documentation purposes.”

      1. JHS*

        I think it could be, yes. I told one of the higher ups sort of informally that I had a conversation with her that I felt was racist and that made me really uncomfortable. So for purposes of it happening again, at least a higher up is aware. My husband told me to give her one free pass because it was the day before the election and everyone was on edge. I semi agreed to do that, but if I hear one more comment–seriously just one, it’s off to HR immediately.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I think this is a good way to handle it. You told her to stop, a higher-up is aware, and if she brings it up again, you have a base on which to form documentation.

    4. Jesmlet*

      To me, this isn’t a problem unless she says something again. You judge employees based on what they bring to the work environment and how they respond to corrections. You told her not to talk about it again and IMHO nothing should be done unless she does. It’s always hard to work with people you probably wouldn’t associate with if you had a choice, but if she keeps her opinions to herself from now on, I don’t see a need for further action.

      1. Formica Dinette*

        Do you believe that someone who would say those things out loud wouldn’t discriminate against people of color in less obvious ways?

        1. Jesmlet*

          I think as a secretary, she probably isn’t in a position to harm other employees in any way, and unless she voices these opinions again, probably won’t create a hostile work environment. However, without knowing the content, it’s hard to say for sure. If she managed people, this would be a whole different story.

          1. JHS*

            I think it could contribute to a hostile work environment, but not be one in and of itself because I would stop it before it got to that point. She doesn’t manage anyone and I think she would never say that stuff if she thought someone of color was in earshot. I honestly believe she said it because she thought I would agree with her, not because she was trying to be controversial, which is really sad and gross, but I don’t think she was trying to harass me or anything like that.

            1. Jesmlet*

              Yeah this isn’t someone I would want around me personally, but professionally if I didn’t think it would be a problem, I would have a hard time justifying to myself firing someone who did a good job. That’s just me though.

    5. neverjaunty*

      I’m also concerned that she felt the need to corner you when you were on your way out the door to prattle at you about her political views. Whatever those views are, WTF did she think she was doing?

      1. JHS*

        Honestly, she is extremely chatty and we’ve talked before about other non-weird stuff like kids (she has a grandson my daughter’s age) and we’ve had a really nice relationship so far since she started. I honestly felt she was expecting me to full on agree with her. I am a minority religion/ethnic group but am white so I think she really thought we were kindred spirits and I was going to think it was all totally the way it is.

    6. miss_chevious*

      “My plan is to continue to act normal around her, but honestly, I just wish I didn’t know any of the things I now know about her.”

      In our first staff meeting after the election, our boss brought up the election and we ended up having a very uncomfortable discussion in which several people talked about who they voted for and why in ways that were…distressing. As my job doesn’t involve politics directly, I had hoped to maintain a policy of plausible deniability about the way people voted so I could continue to work with them without anger or sadness, but that’s been blown out of the water. These are my colleagues, not my direct reports, so I don’t have the same concerns you do, but I emphathise with your dilemma.

  16. VroomVroom*

    I was honestly really conflicted in the election. I voted for a candidate who I socially agreed with many of their policies, but fiscally really *did not* agree with many policies. I voted for a party I’ve never voted for before in a presidential election (in smaller local ones, I have).
    I really didn’t want to vote for that candidate, and followed the primaries for the other party and had a candidate in mind that I really supported and liked and STILL think would have been a great candidate. But, the party I generally align with didn’t bring forward a viable candidate for me. Through all of that, I kept an open mind. But then we learned basically that one of the candidates has little to no respect for minorities, whether race or gender. I hate to say it but it was the gender thing that really solidified my vote for the other candidate, because I am not a minority otherwise, and I’m a little ashamed to admit I was still on the fence until the tapes came out.
    But, they did, and I voted the way I did. I woke up on the 9th and cried. I texted my boss (who I’m fairly certain voted for the winning candidate, but in spite of the person not because of the person… if you cite supreme court or policy and say you don’t like the candidate, I suppose I can understand that because that’s pretty much what I did on the other side) and told him I just couldn’t come in to work that day and spent the day working remotely. He responded very graciously with a text that basically said I understand, it’ll be ok, hopefully it’s only 4 years and hopefully the candidate won’t be able to enact many of the things they promised.
    So, we’d never discussed it at work other than me telling him I was sad about the election results, and he completely understood, despite (I’m 99% sure of this) voting for the winning candidate. I know most of the people in my office (I’m in a Very Red State) also voted for that candidate, and I just couldn’t stomach going in and listening to some of them gloat about it that day. I needed a day of grief.

  17. Temperance*

    Because of the nature of my job (pro bono legal services), the immediate impact of the election results has exponentially increased my workload. I’m so glad that people want to help others, and I’m so thankful that I’m in an extremely progressive environment, which is kind of a unicorn for law firms, BUT having to talk people down from the ledge is stressing me out so much.

    Between having to talk clients through problems that I can’t really help them with or problems that may not exist at all, and comfort coworkers who want to do something to help but only have ideas that are making my job 100x harder, I’m very close to losing it.

    Every idea someone pitches my way requires a ton of work and planning on my part when it’s already the busiest time of the year in my world.

    1. Little Missy*

      I am a university counselor and it’s the same thing here. We have had some concerned students (mainly our newest international students, here on visas to get a college degree in the USA) and we’re just trying to clarify the differences between what’s been said in campaigns and what their individual situations may be.

  18. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I am legitimately worried that Trump will either make discrimination so legal, widespread, and encouraged that my same-sex marriage rights will mean nothing, practically speaking, or that his people will make it flat-out illegal.

    I am scared that supporters in public and at work will really hurt me, physically, or vandalize. This is different than other elections. I know, practically, that many Trump supporters will not hurt me. But, let’s say 10% might. And if you go on about Trump, I will have to worry all the time about whether you are that 10% or not.

    If you are straight, you just don’t get this in the same way. As a lawyer, I have already hastily set up all the protections I can, started a get-out fund, and made my wife update her passport. I’ve studied political science and history. And I intend to be ready to run if we need to, like expats in the 1930s.

    1. Jesmlet*

      On the semi-bright side, Trump has said he wants to give the marriage issue back to the states and I and many others fortunately live in a state that had already made it legal so we’re covered if it ends up going that way. On the very very dark side, endless sympathies to anyone who lives in a state where these protections don’t exist and we will happily welcome you if you choose to relocate to a more LGBT friendly state.

      1. mazzy*

        I guess the ban on discussing politics is selective?

        Sad this election round no one has discussed the various and meaty tax and economic plans on the table, if we are in the end going to discuss politics. Those will most likely end up being much more far reaching, given that an increase in discriminatory laws is highly highly unlikely given the way our government makes laws.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Apologies for contributing, I just figured since the comment was already up I’d add my two cents and tried to phrase it in a way that kept it strictly to that issue and didn’t insult anyone regardless of their views.

  19. Searching*

    This was one benefit of being laid off a while before the election happened – I didn’t have to worry about getting pulled into political discussions at work! I had one colleague who was (and still is) a good friend who leans a completely different way politically than I do, and we’ve been able to maintain our close friendship by knowing when to back off from political discussions & commentary. I had to pointedly redirect the conversation at times, but it never caused any hard feelings.

    On the other hand, after the lay-off I found out on Instagram that another ex-colleague, with whom I had forged a work-friendship too, also held completely opposite political beliefs – and for some reason I did not see that one coming and it just blew me away. I made the decision to quietly block her from IG because I just couldn’t stomach reading her commentary. Instagram is the only social media place (besides LinkedIn) where I will allow connections with co-workers because it is mainly non-political photos and very few discussions (political or otherwise). Seeing her post her views through this medium just took me by surprise. Perhaps when things settle down I’ll reconnect with her.

  20. Raging_Natural*

    I NEVER comment on this site because I feel like people are pretty much on point, but I feel context is missing from this conversation. This isn’t talking “politics” at work. We are speaking of ideologies, that are dangerous to marginalized groups. I had to sit my supervisor down to let her know a company-wide email that was sent out reminding employees to not be “upset” about the election no matter who your candidate was. I live in NC right now and the KKK is planning a victory march for Trymp, not even an hour from my job, so upset is a pretty inappropriate word to be using, and calling this politics is disingenuous. There are many minorities and other marginalized groups who are SCARED of what this election means for themselves, their families, and friends. Being a member of one of those marginalized groups (black woman) I can’t (and others probably can’t either) turn this off just because I happen to be at work. Minorities and other marginalized groups have just been told that their rights are not as important, and I’m a little disappointed (but not surprised) that this is being framed as just “politics.” I am very lucky that I am able to speak freely at work about how I feel, but others are not as fortunate as me. This is traumatic for a lot of us, who know the horrors of American history (that many people seem to want to ignore). My grandparents lived in the Jim Crow South and what’s happening today is very reminiscent of that time, per their memory. So maybe it’s time we DO start having a conversation instead of running from it, because all of us don’t have the luxury to not talk about it. I didn’t support either candidate personally, but I refuse to ignore the fact that Trump has validated white supremacy. I also REFUSE to pretend that what’s going on is ok because certain groups (i.e. white people) can choose to ignore what’s going on if they want because this doesn’t directly affect them. I hope this post doesn’t get deleted, but I really felt like this needed to be said.

    1. Aisling*

      No one is saying there can’t be a conversation. There needs to be. The point of this post is that it shouldn’t take place at work, a place where people can’t generally choose to engage or not if they don’t want to. Do it in your personal life, with friends, with family, but not at work. It’s part of being a professional – leaving your personal feelings outside the door.

      1. Raging_Natural*

        That’s the point. I don’t get to turn off being marginalized, so why do you think it’s ok to ask me to turn off FEAR just because I’m at work.? That doesn’t make sense, and is actually pretty abusive.

        1. Frayed*

          Asking you not to have political conversations at work is not abusive, and I think that construing it as such is truly… not appropriate. You can feel however you feel, and there’s no turning off fear and anxiety, but that doesn’t entitle you to say whatever you want at work, however and whenever you want to say it. This applies to all topics, political, personal, anything. Work is not an appropriate venue to talk about your personal fears, as well founded as they may be.

          Look, I too am part of multiple marginalized groups with a big target on our heads after this election. I’ll have to think twice before I take my SO’s hand or introduce her as my fiance. I’ll probably get (more) comments about taking jobs away from “real Americans,” accented mockery of my mother language, aggressions on both a micro and macro level. And that’s just me, not touching on all of the other marginalized folks with completely different and yet parallel fears: that we won’t be treated as fellow human beings.

          Work is still not the place to vent about how I feel about it.

      2. Alton*

        I feel like it’s kind of a mistake, though, to reduce something like being worried about being the victim of a hate crime to a “personal belief” that should be checked at the door. Some of us don’t really have that luxury. Some people would consider me being out of the closet as being “political” on some level, even though it’s really just me existing and living my life.

        What I’ve been seeing a little lately is people conflating expressing dismay over swastika graffiti with a “political disagreement.” I want to give most people the benefit of the doubt that swastikas do not represent a valid political opinion to them. There is a difference, I think, between avoiding political discussions at work and pretending that blatant bigotry isn’t a problem or that minorities don’t exist.

        1. Abbie*

          Yes! I think what we’re seeing right now is unique in that many, many groups of people are being asked to ignore the very fact of being in their own bodies. My identity is political, and not because I want(ed) it to be. I can’t take it off or decide when I disclose it. I think HR as a field has a responsibility to stretch beyond the notion that workers are talking politics when they are reacting to fear for their safety and civil/human rights. As for folks who are uncomfortable with this discourse in the workplace, I would encourage them to consider how radio silence might be discomforting to a marginalized colleague.

    2. Jesmlet*

      The term politics is just a catchall for the conversations that could be happening. I think there’s just things that shouldn’t be discussed at work because of the potential for starting conflict. You should be working at work and water cooler conversation shouldn’t be something that has the potential for causing a serious HR headache. No one is asking you to turn off your feelings, they are just suggesting that you don’t express your feelings ostentatiously while at your place of employment.

    3. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      I think Alison’s post was about politics, not a particular current political circus (though admittedly it does make reference). We’re actively trying to avoid that one. :)

      And I totally agree there’s a difference between politics and hate speech (or hateful ideologies). That should be addressed regardless of the politics of the day.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        . . . there’s a difference between politics and hate speech (or hateful ideologies). That should be addressed regardless of the politics of the day.

        Just what I came here to say. Hateful ideologies should be addressed wherever they crop up, and the people targeted by the ideology shouldn’t be the only ones saying anything.

    4. Bobby is asleep*

      THANK YOU for saying this. Very very true. I’m a female POC and the silence and “business as normal” vibe at my office is painful. It’s like if you had a death in the family and the whole office knew but no one acts like they care. My mostly white office does not care about what is going on. Good for me to know. I’m trying to keep my head down and work as much as I can until I get out.

      And good on you for engaging your co-workers. I avoid it b/c I really don’t want to learn who some of the people on the “other side politically” voted for … it is disappointing. I just assume they all did vote for… and will be pleasantly surprised if I find out (without trying) that they voted otherwise.

      1. Kelly*

        I see them as sneaking in a jab at who some may have voted for. The comments are getting one-sided and uncomfortable whether I agree with them or not.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Huh? There have been, like, three comments that reference a particular candidate, and they weren’t overly aggressive or negative. I think we’re having our nice things right now.

  21. Elizabeth West*

    I’m starting a job hunt *GROAN* and just plan to deflect any mention of politics in any discussions or interviews or anything. I think that’s the best thing to do. But I don’t really want to work for a company that would discriminate in any way.

    How best to determine that in interviews? Can I ask about their policies? I mean, obviously if they have Pumpkin signs all over the damn office or on the property, that would be a huge clue. But how to word such a question, if I could even ask it? Not all companies have their benefits / policies / diversity statements listed on websites.

    1. West Coast Reader*

      One idea I have is to reach out to someone who is in a minority group in the company or who have previously worked there. LinkedIn or Twitter would be great starting points.

      This would be outside of the interviews though. You can also ask about any diversity initiatives or diversity stats in the interview. However, to get the nuanced information you’re looking for, you will need to talk to someone on the inside.

  22. Allison*

    I want to add something for managers: you can insist that people come to work and do their jobs, and it’s fair to ask that people not let their feelings about the election interfere with doing what needs to get gone. It’s also reasonable to expect people to be polite and professional with colleagues and clients. But please don’t insist on smiles. Customer service work, fine, a pleasant demeanor is important, but for the people work in the office, at desks, away from clients, let them be a little gloomy for a while. They’ll recover in time.

    1. Miss Displaced*

      Correct. And likewise, if you are a manager, you do not need to feel afraid to quickly shut down employees that are making rude, offensive, racist, or otherwise inappropriate comments.
      The advice to JHS above is spot on. These should be dealt with the way they always have been in the workplace as they never have and never will be appropriate in a workplace.

  23. MashaKasha*

    At OldJob, the department director once decided to go on a post-election political rant during an all-hands department meeting. While standing in front of the entire department, running the meeting. Talked about being trapped bystanders!

  24. Shelby Drink the Juice*

    I tend to vote as part of the polka dot party. Maybe 6 months ago, two coworkers were loudly discussing how “stupid” polka dot party people are. I was in his cube to discuss actual work stuff when he said it. I couldn’t stop myself, I just looked at him and said “I’m a polka dot”. Instead of him reflecting that not everyone here is a stripe or that his statements definitely didn’t follow the company value of respecting others, he actually preceded to call me uninformed. I politely stated that there are many things the polka dots stand for that I agree with strongly. I didn’t want to get into a detailed policy analysis. It ended after he said I needed to “educate” myself.

    Even worse two weeks ago, after I complained to my manager that I’m making less money than recently promoted (less experience and less education) MALE team members, he started a political discussion and I found out he’s a stripe. Yeah, so I don’t have a lot of confidence he’ll correct my salary.

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          Can someone job my memory on which candidate is cozied up with Big Fiber and which had the inflated thread count scandal?

        2. BenAdminGeek*

          Your anti-plaid comments disgust me. This is why the people of this country will stand up and throw off the shackles of your polka-dot/stripe divided system, and truly be free!

      1. Shelby Drink the Juice*

        Ha! I did get the idea from your blog to refer to it that way. But I haven’t quite figured out which is which when you post about it. :)

        It would have been the exact same rudeness for coworkers to be referring to all stripes as stupid morons in the workplace.

          1. Shelby Drink the Juice*

            As a side note, I found your blog from your comments here. I went back years reading to catch up. I love it.

  25. Gregory*

    I wonder what advice you’d give for trapped bystanders? I sit near a gentleman on the opposite side of the political spectrum from myself and he has very loud phone conversations all day long that I can’t really block out with headphones because of his nearness/volume. For the last week many of these loud conversations have involved a lot of gloating and insulting/patronizing comments about people unhappy with the results. It’s been really difficult to sit and listen to this but I can’t think of any way to do anything about it without making things more uncomfortable for myself in the office. He’s not in my department and we have never really had any interaction with each other. There’s no HR in my location and the individual in question is fairly high in the chain of command for his department at our location. Right now I’m just hoping that his election talk will dwindle over time and I’ll only have to deal with his garden variety nastiness (“F—ing retard” is common, as are sexist remarks) which is not pleasant but I can usually tune it out.

    1. Annie Moose*

      If he’s having very loud phone conversations, then that’s a problem even aside from having to listen to comments you disagree with. If you ask him to tone down his volume (which is totally reasonable, IMO), focus on the “you may not realize this, but sometimes your phone conversations can get loud and it’s distracting when I’m trying to work” side of things as opposed to the politics of it.

      1. Gregory*

        We only recently won the battle of having his department turn the volume down to a reasonable level on their TV (which is on all day; sometimes on a work-related channel but also frequently sports) so I don’t think that’s going to fly.

  26. Cheryl*

    I know the no-election talk rule is in effect, and you’re right there are lots of other places we can be having those. BUT.

    As you can see, from above, it is so real, so raw, so fresh, for so many, we just can’t help going there. I have a feeling comments will be turned off pretty quickly.

    I am lucky that I am retired, although now re-employed in a very part-time capacity, and mostly work online.

    But I want to say that the US News article is so right, and so timely. Many people are genuinely afraid, and many others are genuinely supportive of those groups who are afraid. We are, truly, grieving. So even if we aren’t talking about politics or the election at work, our feelings are apparent.

    The Chinese curse (although I just now read in Wikipedia there is really no equivalent in Chinese!) “May you live in interesting times,” is definitely an understatement in these days. It will be “interesting” to see how this all plays out, in our lives, and our workplaces.

  27. Jake*

    My wife works in a doctors’ office with 2 other nurses and a receptionist. My wife and the nurses strongly stand on one side while the receptionist is on the other.

    Over the last week I’ve heard 4 stories about the receptionist being reduced to tears because she overhears conversations about politics. I feel so bad for her, since she is not participating in the conversations and is forced to hear them. My wife says she is a great (a word my wife rarely uses) receptionist, and they have a real chance at losing her over it.

    I don’t really have much to say or ask, just thought the anecdote fit the post really well.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I get concerned about that. And I get concerned about the aggregate effect of that–that the one thing many on both sides seem to be agreeing on is that social Balkanization is a solution, and I think that’s going to be deeply destructive.

  28. Case of the Mondays*

    One way I have diffused conversations is finding common ground about the process rather than the candidates. Things like “it was nice to see so many people at the polls today.” If the conversation remains about the candidates I can say something like well, regardless of who you voted for, it’s pretty neat that there are elderly woman seeing a woman on the ballot for the first time. Or, it’s interesting that even someone without a political background can still be on a ballot.

    1. Jenna*

      This reminds me of when I was standing in line to vote. I was trying so hard to keep the conversation neutral, but, I am currently living in a district that is mostly of the opposite party than I am, and they were quite happy to talk up their candidate with no awareness that someone in line(me!) was in strong disagreement.
      When in spaces where someone can’t leave, it’s really best to keep it neutral so that they don’t feel trapped and scared.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          The polls where I live had signs up stating that you cannot have political conversations at the polls.

          My father likes to measure the distance that political signs are from the polling place and have the poll workers move them if they’re too close. (Also illegal electioneering.)

  29. Tax Accountant*

    I (foolishly) had no idea how political my job was going to be. I thought I was going to just go to work, do taxes, and go home. HAHAHA. As long as politicians are using the tax code as a bargaining chip/bludgeon/arbiter of morality and values, and as long as taxpayers have an opinion about how much they are paying in taxes, I’m going to get to listen to people make political comments. Frequently ones that I disagree with. I hate it. I hate talking politics, I hate listening to people talk politics. Our political views are shaped by our life experiences. Being preached at and listening to someone make snide comments is not ever going to change anyone’s opinion. I agree with everyone else who has commented above who would prefer everyone keep their opinions on the subject to themselves.

    1. fposte*

      “Being preached at and listening to someone make snide comments is not ever going to change anyone’s opinion.”

      Yes, and I think that’s something we all struggle with; as noted upthread, I see it often enough between people on the same side as well as those on opposite ones.

  30. Chomps*

    Thanks so much for the comment about bystanders. It’s very frustrating when people stand in the hallway or near your cube talking, it’s much worse when the topic is something that’s so emotionally laden.

  31. Manders*

    I’m in a location that’s very much a bubble–there hasn’t been much discussion about politics in the office, because it’s pretty likely that everyone voted for the same candidate. The thing that’s going to be awkward in the coming years is that some employees (young, female, hovering on the edge of living wage) are at risk of being much more directly effected by the changes that are likely to come down the political pipeline.

    I have seen some people from other offices crying in the shared bathroom–one of the companies near us has a lot of employees who are here on work visas and now think they may not be able to stay in the country long-term. I don’t know what’s going to happen to that company if it loses so many employees all at once.

  32. Case of the Mondays*

    In addition to the topics becoming so personal and heated, I think we have lost a lot of practice engaging in polite social discourse with those who disagree with us. That’s because we just block and unfollow the opinions we don’t want to read and choose the news stations that align with our personal beliefs. There are few places to go and read about the other side in an unbiased way. I try to watch international news sometimes for this point of view – BBC/Al Jezeera.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      But who said the two sides are balanced? One candidate called for screening immigrants based on their religion, called for “those second amendment people” to do something about his opponent appointing judges, bragged about the size of his penis in a national debate, called the system rigged and refused to accept the results if he lost, and bragged about sexually assaulting women (and then sued them for libel when they agreed with his assessment).

      Some things are truly beyond the pale and should be called as such.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Roger that, will do.

          It just saddens me that politics in this country have been drug down to such a deplorable level. In past election cycles, civil conversations were much more possible.

      1. Case of the Mondays*


        I agree that there are things that just cannot and should not be politely discussed. I was speaking more broadly and not about this specific election as I thought we were asked to do. I just felt the need to let you know I agree with you.

    2. Jesmlet*

      Yes, we’ve all cultivated bubbles for ourselves that whenever we hear someone of the opposing view, we flip out because we’re used to just getting opinions and information that confirm what we already believe. It’s something we need to start practicing again if we’re to keep this country in one piece. It is possible to be friends with people of opposing views, you just need to know how to frame your opinions in ways that don’t insult the person. If we understand the motivations of both sides then maybe there’s a way that we can all come together. This Libertarian reads all the news sources, domestic and international, and it’s shocking how different the slants are.

      1. Natalie*

        I know this is the latest media topic du jour but it’s not true that “we’ve all” gotten bubbled up and incapable of listening to someone with a different opinion. For one thing, just because two people vote for the same person for president doesn’t mean they agree on much of anything else.

        1. Jesmlet*

          It’s a generalization for sure, but it’s pretty common for conservatives to exclusively read/listen to Fox News and for liberals to prefer other sources. I know anecdotal evidence isn’t hard proof of anything, but I’ve seen a lot of high school and college friends and acquaintances talking about how many people they’re unfriending after seeing their political views on social media.

          1. Formica Dinette*

            My anecdata show that people are unfriending others not based on their political views, but on their views about human rights issues.

            1. Observer*

              Except that in many cases, the assumptions they are making about human rights issues are not correct. I’m serious about that.

            2. Dot Warner*

              Speaking for myself (and I am unanimous in this), I unfriended people because they’d spent the last several years frothing at the mouth over the Polka Dot Party’s scandals and then they spent this election trying to justify their vote for the Stripe Party candidate, who behaved even more abominably than the Polka Dot.

          2. Natalie*

            I have to agree with Formica Dinette that most of the unfriending I’ve seen isn’t really about political opinions in the abstract but rather explicit bigotry. I’ve actually witnessed some of that on friend’s posts – as an example, a friend posted a specific concern about her daughter due to daughter’s demographic membership, and one of the comments was ridiculously bigoted about their friend’s own child.

            I don’t have much more to say about this that won’t definitely run afoul of Alison’s content request so I’ll leave it at that.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              That’s been the case for me and for others that I know who have unfriended or unfollowed people. When I see people making bigoted statements, or saying that such-and-such bigoted outcome is an acceptable, if unintended, consequence of the election, then I unfriend (for people I’m not close with anyway) or unfollow (for family members).

            2. Jesmlet*

              Point taken, what I’ve seen in addition to that has involved people unfriending for their criticism of one political candidate or their support of the other political candidate and the implied support for all of their views. I think a lot of people assume bigotry as an association and sometimes it’s there and other times it isn’t.

        2. fposte*

          Can you expand on that, Natalie? I of course love the metapossibilities of being in a bubble about my bubble :-). Do you think there are regions or fields that are more comfortably purple than others?

          1. Natalie*

            (Borrowing polka dot/stripes from upthread)

            Well, I wouldn’t say I’m in a purple area at all – I’m in a city that votes reliably polka dot (our rep got nearly 70% of the vote in a year that saw high turn out for the stripes). But there’s more to politics than the polka dots and stripes that run for president. I’m about medium-level-radical myself, but among my Facebook cohort I would be considered a moderate or possibly even kind of establishment and corporate. A fair number of my Facebook friends are often more angered by and opposed to the Polka Dot Party establishment than they are to the Stripe Party in general.

            Which also isn’t the say I don’t interact with a ton of Stripe Party supporters on any given day. My city core might be reliably Polka Dot, but we’re part of a huge metro area with a lot of areas that are reliably Striped. I have relatives and co-workers that lean Stripe Party. Although their issues generally tend to be older concerns of Stripe Party, so I’m not sure how they’re leaning these days.

      2. Nichole*

        I have cultivated a bubble online and I’m actually okay with it. On a daily basis I struggle with trying to be the “ideal minority member” and feel constantly reminded that I need to live my life in a way that proves that I’m a person too, that I need to make the most normal choices I can in the context of the things I can’t change to normalize the aspects of me that I can’t change. It’s incredibly exhausting and I don’t think I can get away with that because every time aspects of that slip it comes off as if I’ve confirmed stereotype even if all that really happened is that a frustrated person raised her voice.

        It’s good to be in a space where I feel like I can actually be myself and share my actual opinions, instead of culling them down to something more ‘acceptable’.

        1. miss_chevious*

          Yeah, this is how I cultivate my Facebook feed. It is an online space where I can be myself and associate with people with whom I can share my actual opinions. I have to perform in public and at my job, so my online bubble is comforting to me.

          1. Kristin D*

            Exactly. For me, social media is supposed to be enjoyable. I don’t know why anyone would think we are obligated to read things that we find offensive or upsetting there, just because it’s “listening to the other side.” It doesn’t make me less informed; it means I decide when and where I want to hear about it.

        2. Tiffany In Houston*

          THIS. I’m “on stage” at work and in public constantly. I want to be myself amongst my friends both on and offline.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        The skit from the post-election SNL made me wonder if SNL had been spying on me through my living-room window: “Whut?! But Slate and the Huffington post said . . . !!”

      4. Temperance*

        I wholly disagree with this. This is not a new idea, or some radical new thing. I have friends with all sorts of different beliefs, but they all respect basic human rights and dignity. I have family who take great pleasure in homophobia, evangelical Christianity, and blatant racism, and they’re not worth engaging. There is no “come together” with people who use slurs.

    3. Jenna*

      This election, I almost felt like we were from different planets or dimensions, there was so few shared viewpoints or news sources. We couldn’t even agree on which facts were true because if you tried to fact check anything they saw your fact checking source as biased, and vice versa.
      The name calling this time was far, far worse than I recall seeing before. Most of the people I read stay away from that, but, comment sections are so variable in how they are moderated.
      This election was horrible and I wish I could see some way to fix that, but, I really don’t.

    4. neverjaunty*

      May I gently suggest that we lose a lot when we see there being only an “other side”. International news is a good source, but instead of flipping the color of the talking-heads channel one usually follow, another good tactic is to seek out voices of those who are not traditionally featured in NYT opinion columns or syndicated news channels.

  33. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

    As someone who was an “innocent bystander” at my old job, I can say that it was absolutely one of the reasons I left that job. I didn’t fit in with the culture at all there, and the conversations teeming with thinly veiled racism/xenophobia going on all around me (we were not allowed to wear earbuds) made working there so unpleasant. I pointed it out in my exit interview, but I have no idea if there was any follow up on it. I quit that job about 18 months ago, and even though I’m having some issues with my new employer, I can only thank God and The Flying Spaghetti Monster that I did not have to suffer through this election cycle there. I don’t think I could have handled it.

  34. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    Nice article, Alison. We’re tempting fate, but here’s hoping for no burns. :D

    My comment: quite like religion, I try to remember there are a lot of things people feel strongly about though they may not say anything. If you must discuss, take it somewhere where people aren’t working, or keep it short!

    We have stripes, stars, polka-dots, and maybe some tie-dye at my place–I may make a quick comment, but I realize that I’m not the only perspective. My cubemate even shares the opposite view (we’ve had a few discussions). That being said, when it comes up, I may make a few comments and then I go, “Can we shelve this for later? I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable and they have to work.” We usually talk late in the day after everyone is gone (and doesn’t have to suffer listening to us) or over the office IM.

  35. allsmalltalk*

    What do you do when it’s your boss and not a colleague? Right now, I don’t even feel like discussing politics with people I ‘agree’ with.

    1. Annie Moose*

      hahaha right??? I’m just so sick of the election. 95% of the people I theoretically am supposed to agree with have been going around saying such dumb stuff, I just want to hide under a rock until January. Of 2020.

      I think the whole “oh, I’m so over election talk! Let’s talk about [topic from a list you thought of ahead of time / current work project] instead” redirection tactic is about as good as you can do. And not engaging. If they want to rant and you can’t leave or stop them ranting, then just sort of “mmhmm, mmhmm” without actively encouraging a conversation. Hopefully they’ll run out of steam quickly!

  36. Deep Undercover*

    So our ED thought it would be “hilarious” to do an election skit at our annual staff retreat over the summer. After it flopped big-time (NOBODY laughed), I tried to explain on the survey that there were very real, raw emotions wrapped up in this election and I thought it was offensive to make light of that.

    Last Wednesday, I was so grateful to have an office door. Every time I heard someone mention either candidate’s name, I politely got up and closed my door. I know it’s not much, but I do get to control what my ears have to hear occasionally.

    I may seem like an ogre right now, but I don’t have much to say to anyone. I’m sort of scared of what might come out of their mouths and I just can’t stomach any more pep talks telling me how I should think or feel right now.

  37. PK*

    I’m a ‘no politics’ at work guy. I work in an environment where I’m the minority when it comes to political ideology and unfortunately, I find myself an innocent bystander quite often. Loud conversations outside of my office have been the norm the last couple months. It’s only ramped up since. It’s made my days painfully long. Unfortunately, saying something would only label me as the ‘whiny liberal’ and would make things worse in the long run. I’m just ready for things to move on at this point.

  38. Mimmy*

    Great article Alison, and thank you particularly for the remarks about respecting those who may be grieving (I think it was the third item in your list).

    My work is all volunteer-based (I’m on a couple of government-associated councils) and I’m dreading my county meeting on Wednesday–I’ll just leave it at that. Any suggestions in coping with that? The spot where I usually sit is near the door, so I may just walk out if things get rough because knowing me, I’ll lose it and say something I may regret :(

    Is it appropriate to email a staff liaison to see if they have any plans should things get out of hand? (I’d skip this meeting but I already missed last month due to being out of town).

  39. Jack*

    I’ve definitely been struggling about talking about politics at work. I mean, anyone who knows me can make some assumptions about how I would have voted and it’s come up before. I’m in a generally isolated community — all of my friends who live near me are people I work with, are married to people I work with, or are people I used to work with. And some of them are quite close friends.

    In addition, I’m looking at the job I have and the changes it might go through and wondering if I still want to be here come January. And I don’t know how to have that conversation if it ends up needing to happen, because there are some people who simply will not understand and think I’m being absurd and reactionary.

  40. J'onn*

    I think I screwed up by getting emotional the day after the election at work, and I’m not sure what to do.

    I was outside over a break, a person driving by yelled something in support of the candidate and a slur targeting me based the minority group I’m part. I thought I could keep it together for the rest of the day, but about an hour later was crying at my desk.

    I couldn’t leave for the day, but did talk to my boss about what happened and got permission to get some air. I thanked him for the space and said I felt better after, but there’s palpable discomfort on his part. Since then, he won’t talk to me and has cancelled our scheduled meetings. He’s hinted at his political views in the past and our office has a very strict no-election-talk rule. I’m worried he’s taking it like I am against him politically as well as being unprofessional for getting emotional at work–especially with me being a guy, as he’s made some borderline homophobic comments that we have talked through in the past.

    I’m trying to just act normal and not address it in hopes this all blows, but is there something else to do?

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      He’s uncomfortable around you because you were the target of a minority-group slur? Wow, I’m sorry you’re dealing with that on top of the slur incident itself.

    2. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      First and foremost, I just want to say how sorry I am that happened to you.

      When I read your post, my thought wasn’t that he felt like you were against him, but feels like because he voted for the same candidate (I’m assuming, of course), you might think he approves of what that person did. To me his behavior seems more uncomfortable and perhaps embarrassed instead of him being angry at you.

    3. Sherm*

      You did not screw up. In fact, unless there’s some perfectly innocent explanation for his behavior (such as the truth is he got really busy and doesn’t have time to talk with you), he is the one screwing up. It sounds like in the past you felt comfortable talking things through with him, so if that’s still the case I’d calmly ask him if there is context to help you understand what is going on.

    4. Formica Dinette*

      I don’t have any good advice, but I am so sorry you’re having to deal with this horrible situation. You didn’t do anything wrong.

  41. Larina*

    My strategy was to to loudly mention otters anytime election politics came up, especially post election day. I’d talk about how cute they were, pull up a youtube video, or even tell people about how otters pass down their favorite rocks to their offspring.

    My very political department learned very quickly that I wasn’t in the mood for election talk, and that if they wanted to talk about it, they could do it away from me.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I can contribute to the otter conversation that, at the St Louis Zoo, the otter exhibit has a glass wall between the otters’ slide and a kids’ playground slide, and when the otters see a kid go down the kids’ slide, the otters will slide down the otter slide beside the kid. It is soooo cute!

  42. Liane*

    Am job hunting so I don’t have to worry about this; one upside to the situation.

    As for my personal Facebook, it hasn’t been too bad, thankfully, not even from Actual Friends whom I know have different views from me in at least some areas. The worst have been from a few friends-of-friends or pages-liked-by-friends, so I have been practicing my cursor skills by hitting “Hide.”

  43. anonderella*

    been meaning to read up on Mother Teresa; just found this quote on her wikipedia:

    “No matter who says what, you should accept it with a smile and do your own work.”

  44. Observer*

    What is so interesting here is that the narrative on both sides is so similar. Both candidates had historically low approval ratings, and it’s obvious that a HUGE proportion of voters on both sides of the aisle voted AGAINST the other candidate, not FOR *their* candidate.

    Yet, on both sides I’m hearing a lot of “My Candidate is Saint X, who was unfairly vilified by the press and had to struggle against a system that was stacked against the candidate and the people they want to help.” and “All the people who voted for the other candidate are just a bunch of self interested x,y and z who don’t care about the horrible injustices the other candidate will / has caused.”

    So, yeah, if you HAVE to discuss, try to have some respect for the other guy, even if you totally disagree with the choice. If you are a believer in Saint X, don’t get into any discussions with non-believers. If you are not one of the faithful, and get stuck with one of those, withdraw from the conversation. It’s just not good for work.

  45. Lissa*

    (Canadian here, so not specifically talking about the US election results). I don’t even want to talk politics with people on MY side right now. And by “right now” I mean this year. I am so tired of the instructive posts telling others exactly how to react to things, criticizing people for not being angry enough, or for being too angry, or for caring about the wrong things. I understand that some things are incredibly important, but telling somebody “I don’t care that it gives you anxiety attacks to talk about politics — this is too important for me to stay quiet because it’s a matter of life and death!” is not helpful. How is you ranting at me about something where I mostly *agree* with you going to help this matter of life and death? especially at work!

    People are so steeped in it, sometimes 24/7, and need a break. I understand the perspective of “this affects every area of my life so why should you get a break” but I don’t think it actually does any good.

  46. blackcat*

    In my grad program, a large percentage of students are muslims from the middle east (here on student visas). There’s been lots of talk about what it could mean, practically, for these students. I don’t view it as inappropriate for those students to be discussing their plans/professional concerns (eg, “I don’t know that I’ll be able to travel to X conference abroad since I’m not sure I’ll be let back into the US.”) We’re in a cube farm, so there’s no real private areas for folks to have these conversations. And I think it’s pretty insensitive for someone to tell them to take the conversation elsewhere. We work in a cube farm, a place where undergrads in classes people TA for will drop in–if someone doesn’t want to be disturbed by conversations (any conversations!) around the room, that’s what headphones are for.

  47. NicoleK*

    Many of us here provide services to many of the groups that were targeted during the election. Many of us here belong to groups that were targeted during the election. Whether or not you believe their fear is valid is inconsequential. A lot of people feel unsafe. If an employer serves (insert whatever group here) or have employees of (insert whatever group here), there should be something to address inclusivity and tolerance both internally and externally.

    1. Observer*

      That’s a very different issue from discussing politics, or specific candidates at work.

      I don’t care who you voted for – if you are decent or smart as a boss, you should understand that harassment, bullying or similar behaviors have no place in the workplace. If you are allowing your staff to be mistreated, at best you are a wimp and at worst you are jerk and an idiot, even if it’s legal.

      Note: “You” in this case does NOT refer to the person I am addressing but a generic “person”.

      1. NicoleK*

        I’m not as clear as I wanted to be (trying to abide by the no politics discussion after all). So I’ll just leave it as is.

  48. JAM*

    I started a new job the day after the 2012 Presidential election. My new boss walked me around office-to-office, telling me who everyone voted for (if she knew) and then bringing me into what appeared to be her party’s office HQ hideout and I had to politely listen to them for 20 minutes instead of getting access to the computer. It was the most awful experience and really ruined several people for me. It wasn’t just that we were on different ends of the political spectrum, it was also that they felt the need to pressure my behavior in some way and seemed to show no concern that this was my first impression of most of them. The weirdest part was, there was an actual election result that directly influenced legal guidelines for that job and they weren’t even discussing that.

  49. PoniezRUs*

    Allison and all the commentators: I respect that politics should not be talked about at work but I am scared of what will happen to me and the people I love. My fear is not unwarranted and I think that in and of itself is a non partisan issue. There are people on this thread that have blatantly said they are scared. To ban political discussions is a catch all term as someone up-thread mentions which ends up encompassing the fears that marginalized group. If me speaking up at work about my genuine fear for my safety is inappropriate then maybe we can talk about a safe way to address this issue at work. Who do we turn to? Who in the workplace can ease these concerns? My fear is real and I want to be reassured that I will not be treated differently or threatened because of my name, appearance, and ethnicity.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve only banned political discussions here; they’re not banned in workplaces. In fact, if you have fears about your safety at work or about discrimination or harassment at work, the federal government legally protects your right to report those things to your employer.

      Here are some resources that may help:

      This is a very incomplete list and I welcome people adding to it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In fact, if y’all will help, I’d be glad to compile a better list of resources for people and make it its own post. What resources do others recommend?

    2. Jean*

      I’m just trying to share information here, not ideology, but feel free to edit or delete my comment if it’s not OK for this thread.

      In response to the people who are afraid for their safety, I can suggest organizations such as HRC, ACLU, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, the ADL, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL, but with the possible exception of the ADL these are all very liberal. ( I don’t know offhand the names of the organizations that support Dreamers, immigrants, and people in this country illegally and/or without documentation.) There’s also a movement to get people to wear safety pins to indicate that they would speak up to defend someone in a marginalized group.

      It’s a problem. Our nation is correct to defend the rights of people to hold diverse opinions, but there’s a point at which some opinions endanger the safety of people on the “other” side. Quotation marks used because there should be a bright line to differentiate between heated and hazardous opinions. Any perspective that justifies inflicting emotional or physical harm on other people (e.g. hateful vandalism, physical attacks) is not okay.

  50. LeRainDrop*

    This is all great advice. As always, it’s best to exercise good judgment and be sensitive to your colleagues in the workplace. Now any tips about how to get this list in front of our bosses? ;-)

    1. Jean*

      Perfect, except that your advice would leave us without the pleasure of reading and/or responding to the 350-plus other comments here.

      1. David St. Hubbins*

        Sure, when you’re discussing politics on the internet, go crazy. I do it all the time. But if I’m at work and you come at me with “my political party is better than your’s” I will turn around and walk away. I don’t have the patience to deal with it.

  51. Starkitten*

    Great timing! Just today, I had to shut down a few guys in the cubicle aisle next door (we’re in an open floor plan and our company, a government contractor, has a “no politics” policy due to the nature of our business). Here’s what I told them, if it helps anybody with wording:

    “Hey guys, I’m politic-ed out and our company has the “no politics” policy. It’s disrupting those of us on the other aisle, so can you move your discussion to the break room?” All three acknowledged it was a fair request and moved onto other subjects.

    1. Jean*

      Nicely done! I’ll file this for reference and possible re-purposing if the chat concerns gossip or religion.

  52. Jill*

    I’ve actually worked for the last 16 years in politics. The first 8 were as the aide to a local councilman who was one of 15 – so I was one of 15 aides out in a cube farm. We talked politics all the time – with all of us aides representing council members with differing viewpoints. Plus my city is a minority-majority city and is known for being segregated, so taboo topics, such as racial ones, came up often, too.

    The number one thing that made it all OK was that no one took things personally! I may wonder aloud how your boss could vote in favor of such a dumb idea…but then I’ll turn around and ask you out to lunch a minute later. It’s all in your actions – if I can demonstrate that I don’t agree with you at all on Topic X or about Candidate Y, but I can also demonstrate that I value you as a colleague and respect your work, it lessens the blow when we debate an issue at work. But maybe that’s just because political disagreements were a natural part of the culture of working in a political office…

  53. across the pond ...*

    I’ve had similar problems here in the UK.

    I now work in a very progressive office where discussion of ‘Brexit’ is naturally coming up.

    I voted Brexit because of the impact cheap foreign labour was having on jobs in my community.
    In my office to be a Brexit voter is to be ignorant and uneducated. My politics is actually pretty progressive – I’m a left-wing ‘leave’ voter – but it is a position that is a bit niche and risks being misinterpreted so I’d rather not get into debates with colleagues.

    I’m happy to talk politics over a beer but I don’t want political debates with people who ultimately have the power to (a) promote me and (b) increase my salary.

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