here’s what to do if your coworkers won’t shut up about politics

Since the last presidential election, my inbox has been full of letters from people asking how they can get their colleagues to stop pushing political talk on them.

Some of us are simply exhausted by politics at this point and don’t want to have to talk about it at work. Others want to preserve decent relationships with their colleagues and don’t want to lose respect for them if talking politics reveals viewpoints they find uninformed or offensive.

At Slate today, I wrote about how to navigate political discussions at work (including avoiding them altogether if you want). You can read it here.

{ 332 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie*

    This should be printed out and posted on bulletin boards in every workplace.

    I follow politics obsessively these days, but won’t utter a word about it at work. However, when someone does offer an opinion I find particularly insensitive give the political climate I’ve been known to share a commiserating look with others who have offense written all over their faces.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Same, I love politics. And I work with a population that has been directly impacted by policies enacted by the current administration. We still don’t talk politics at work.

      1. AMT*

        I think there’s a strong correlation between working with vulnerable groups/being a member of a vulnerable group and not wanting to talk politics at work. I’m a member of a group that’s generating a lot of controversy lately and I’m constantly barraged by news stories about how my rights are in limbo. I keep updated in my free time, but when I’m at work, sometimes I just want to get away from this stuff. On the occasions I hear my coworkers debating things that impact my life and health as casually as you’d discuss a football game, it’s…weird.

        1. Quill*

          It also really mucks with your ability to trust your coworkers when there’s the mere chance that they’re going to debate your human rights like it’s a high school forensics club and they’re taking sides on uniforms or no uniforms.

          1. pancakes*

            Huge yes to this, it’s really unsettling and not something I will ever forget about people who talk that way.

      2. Veronica*

        One of the reasons I don’t like politics is not because I’m in a vulnerable group now, but because I was. A young woman in a fundamentalist area. My reproductive rights were a piece on the political gameboard, arrogant white men who believe their Opinions are/should be law were holding forth, and I was terrified something bad would happen to me and I would not be able to get help and support.
        I still have PTS decades later and I can’t tolerate this issue for very long, even though none of those bad things happened. :(

      3. Vicky Austin*

        I used to work at a place that also served many of the people who were directly affected by the current administration, and sometimes we couldn’t avoid talking politics because of the impact it had on our work. A few days after the 2016, we had a meeting on how the policies of the winner of the election (I’ve notice my comments never get posted here whenever I refer to him by his name- is that deliberate censorship designed to prevent political discussion here? would impact our work and the people I serve.

    2. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

      Wonder if I could post the article on our employee board without getting caught.

  2. Justin*

    Solid rejoinder to the last letter!

    (I would argue it’s the people posting the flags that are bringing up politics in that case.)

    I will say the rest of you: I live in NYC. Vast majority have known of 45 for many years and aren’t fans, so I have never worked where it’s any kind of even split politically. EVEN HERE, I get people who say bigoted things, and I speak up only because I know many support me.

    Godspeed to people living in places where that isn’t the case, and this advice is solid as far as I can tell. I personally couldn’t work in most such places. In those cases, I would absolutely agree to go with the final option, saying you’re so exhausted of politics, because it lets folks think you’re engaged and they can project their beliefs onto you without saying so (that’s what a lot of folks want, I think).

  3. Anna*

    I generally agree with Alison’s POV, and find this overall sensible. But we’re in different times now. Politics aren’t just politics right now. POCs in my office (myself included) are now carrying our passports with us. The ability to act as if politics are part of a different sphere right now speaks to the privilege of one’s day to day life not being affected by the current administration.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree with that and tried to touch on it in the piece (with the piece about real-life ramifications for people’s ability to get health care, stay married, or stay in the country) — but ultimately people still need to respect that their colleagues may not be up for discussing politics at work, and need to be respectful of that since their colleagues are a captive audience. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever bring it up; it means, like I wrote in the article, that you need to pay attention to people’s cues, let them excuse themselves from the conversation, etc.

      1. AMT*

        I agree. As a trans person, I deal with political issues that directly affect my [finances/health/safety/taxes/employment] on a daily basis. There are several cases moving through the Supreme Court that would affect me and people I care about. It’s all over my social media and the blogs and magazines and newspapers I read and my friends’ conversations. At work, I’d like to — well, if not get away from it altogether, then at least be able to choose when and how I engage. I interpreted your advice not as “don’t discuss politics at work” but as “be aware of how your coworkers might be affected by your political talk, even if they don’t directly tell you to stop, and even if they’re not directly part of the discussion.” I think that leaves room for the kind of resource-sharing and commiseration that Anna is talking about.

      2. The Bean*

        To me, talking about how some policy directly effects you (like bathroom bills for a trans person or immigration issues for people caught up in that) isn’t even “talking politics.”

        I don’t think people should feel they have to censor details about their life if it might make someone feel guilty about how they voted.

        1. doreen*

          It might not be because it makes them feel guilty about how they voted. It might just be because when you talk about how some policy directly affects your life, I’ll have to hear someone respond with some sort of imagined point about how it affects their life and one of these days I’m just not going to be able to restrain myself from saying something I shouldn’t.

          1. The Bean*

            So if a Latino/a coworker talks about getting stopped by ICE just because of how they look and another coworker butts in to say that ICE is good because Mexicans steal jobs, you’re going to blame the first coworker?

            1. JSPA*

              Who brought up “blame”?

              Look, if coworker says, ” I actually can’t go on that trip because the client is the stage where I could be arrested for using the bathroom,” that’s talking logistics. If they preface it with, “because of [party name] transphobes and bigots,” the comment becomes overtly political. Surely pointing out the problem is already powerfully educational for people in need of educating; adding the editorial comment doesn’t make it more powerful.

      3. Solar Moose*

        At the same time, people’s lives are changing in very real and tangible ways, particularly for PoC, women, and queerfolk. It’s fairly normal for one to talk about one’s day-to-day life in the office. Shutting down such conversations as “political” just means suppressing the people most harmed by today’s political arena. Silence around political issues favors the people who already benefit from the current system (ie, white and cis).

        People of privilege have the privilege of thinking that politics is “out there” – some theoretical construct that doesn’t enact real change. And that’s a garbage point of view.

        1. some dude*

          I mean, a lot of the people who didn’t bother to vote in the last election are people who are being directly negatively impacted by this administration. And a lot of the people I know who are most freaked out by this administration are white and cis. Having the very fabric of your government dismantled by a senile fascist is disturbing even for us straight white dudes.

          1. Veronica*

            Yes, this “white and cis” category which I’ve just noticed the last couple days is annoying. Are all of us who happen to be white and content with the gender we were assigned at birth bigoted, misogynist fascists? Really?
            You all know better than that.

            1. pancakes*

              No, not really. No one is saying that. You ought to take a step back and ask yourself what you get out of contriving a mistaken belief that your adversaries are saying that.

              1. Veronica*

                They’re not my adversaries.
                What are they saying then? Does “white and cis” have some hidden meaning? Because it sounds like they’re putting everyone who is white and not trans or NB in the same category.
                Which is very, very wrong!

                1. Veronica*

                  Twice lately I’ve seen it used to mean white chauvinist racist men – as if all of us who are white and cis are like that. And we’re not. It’s very upsetting to be put in a category with that type of person!
                  Maybe they *meant* “white chauvinist racist men” but they *said* “white and cis”. This needs to stop.

                2. Veronica*

                  The same people who are policing every word we say are using those same words to unfairly stereotype every white cis person. :(

                3. pancakes*

                  Veronica, people whose gender politics you strongly dislike and consider “annoying” are in fact your political adversaries in some sense. Your gender politics and their gender politics are not aligned. Your gender politics and their gender politics are in opposition to some extent. Your inability to see this doesn’t reflect well on your ability to discern whether your adversaries are in fact trying to accuse all cis white men of bigotry or particular cis white men of bigotry. Your approach to all this seems pretty imprecise, and it isn’t “policing” your language to point that out.

                4. pancakes*

                  @Veronica I want to add something in hopes that it will help us understand one another: If you don’t believe your own politics are aligned with white chauvinist racist men and don’t identify with chauvinist racists, why do you feel that criticism of them is criticism of you? You’re correct that people who are criticizing bigotry among white people don’t always spell out, at every turn in conversation, that they’re referring only to white bigots and not all white people—this isn’t nearly as confusing as you’re making it out to be, though. Why not take context into account? Why not also consider the way conversation about groups works in other contexts, too? When people make generalizations—men like sports and beer, for example—it’s perfectly clear that they’re not referring to every man in the world. We all know that there’s more variety among people than that. Why does or should conversation about bigoted white people require endless reminders that the speaker or writer isn’t referring to every single white person? Or white man? Why does or should the conversation suddenly require the semantic equivalent of training wheels?

    2. savannnah*

      As Alison illustrates in her response- this is also how capitalism works. It is not a byproduct that we are all too heavily invested and dependent on a system to stop and push back, it is a feature.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        I don’t understand this comment. I don’t follow what you were trying to say at all, savannah. It’s so unclear I can’t even formulate a response, and I’d bet I’m not the only one!

        1. J*

          I believe that Savannnah’s point, or at least my interpretation of it, is that capitalism keeps all of us so fixated on surviving it that we are left with little time, ability, or will to address the larger systems that oppress us (and that capitalism is itself one of these systems). And that this paralyzation is an intentional feature of a capitalist society, not a bug.

          1. ...*

            That is how I read it. Also, that people may want to maintain the status quo and uprooting it would make their life harder. IE I want to go to this BLM protest but its during the work day. I would be punished for skipping work and might jeopardize my healthcare/rent money therefore I will not attend the protest b/c I need to go to work and participate in the capitalistic society we live in.

              1. Princesa Zelda*

                Personally, I’ve only ever had one job with vacation, and it would take months of wrangling in order to get one approved. I took exactly two “vacations” the whole 3.5 years I worked there, both of which I requested several months in advance and weren’t confirmed until the day of. This isn’t uncommon in the food service/retail industry.

              2. stephistication1*

                You’re making an assumption that … has a vacation day to take. Careers in certain industries/job types make taking unplanned/unapproved days off kind of hard. … may have vacation days but can’t get the day approved or may not have any days left.

          2. Quill*

            There’s a reason why unionization led to more voting by factory workers in the previous century – better labor protections = more access to civic participation.

        2. epi*

          I understood it just fine. If you lack the background knowledge to understand savannah’s comment, couldn’t you just ask politely– or move on? These threads often get hundreds of comments. There’s no requirement that you respond to every single one, even if the only response you can think of is condescending and rude.

    3. Bertha*

      I am curious how you think this changes Alison’s advice? What part do you disagree with, what part changes?

      1. pancakes*

        I can’t speak for savannah, but it seems quite clear that her comment adds an additional perspective that commenters may or may not want to consider. No? That’s what happens daily in this other comment sections, people contribute their perspective on the topic at hand.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Why are you assuming that the people who don’t want to engage in political talk at work are not having their day to day life affected by the current administration? I’m a private person, and politics (along with religion) are the 2 subjects I avoid at work. I have enough people in my personal life that can’t have a civil conversation about those subjects – I’m not taking the risk of that happening at work with people I consider casual acquaintances.

      1. it's me*

        Same. No way do I want to start a vendetta with someone at work and/or find out they have some totally insane political view that affects my judgment of them.

        1. Me_05*

          Yes! I’ve found out some really uncomfortable things about people because someone insisted on talking police at work. And I’m pretty comfortable with a diversity of thought, so we are talking pretty extreme. I was fine not knowing!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This happened to me at Exjob. Someone I liked and respected said “I like him; he speaks his mind.” Her remark was immediately followed by a really loud record scratch noise in my head as my entire view of her did a complete 180.

    5. Anise*

      I agree, and that’s exactly why I can’t discuss politics at work. Because politics affects my very ability to survive, it fills me with uncontrollable anxiety,and the only way I can stay functioning is to severely restrict what politics I see and how.

      1. BookishMiss*

        Yes. I work in health insurance and boy howdy do politics intersect directly with my work life.
        I still refuse to discuss them outside of their effect on my job. You want to talk about how Law X changes coverage for Service Y and how we’re making that change in our business? Sure. You want to talk about the hows and whys and whos of the legislation, with a healthy dose of your opinion thrown in? Whether I agree with you or not, no thank you.

    6. Lissa*

      I hear this a lot. “If you don’t want to talk about politics, you’re privileged” and so on, but I just don’t agree. It isn’t as though every person out there who isn’t a white straight man wants to discuss politics all the time either. Just because your life is being affected by something doesn’t mean you have to be wanting to talk about it all the time. People’s lives have always been directly impacted by politics, as well – it still is something people can need a break from, and being put in a position to have to engage with it 24/7 isn’t fair no matter who you are.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        That “if you don’t want to talk about politics, you’re privileged” thing makes me so angry. I’ve worked with people who are not privileged, and participating in politics *is* a privilege. A job that lets you flex your in/out/lunch so you can go vote is a privilege. Having internet access to find your polling place or owning a working television to catch up on news is a privilege. Having the free time to catch up on politics, not scramble to care for your children or provide your basic needs like eating and sleeping is a privilege. Having a 9-5 work schedule with PTO that lets you participate in community meetings or protests that overwhelmingly stick to that schedule is a privilege. Having transportation to vote or attend political events is a privilege. Having spare money to donate to political causes is a privilege. Heck, even having a basic education in reading and civics, such that you can read and understand the news or fill out a voter registration form is a privilege.

        So now we are calling those people who do not participate in the political process because they don’t have any extra bandwidth privileged? That is ludicrous and offensive.

        1. pancakes*

          I broadly agree with much of what you’re saying but you’re over-egging it a bit. People found their polling places long before the internet existed, for example, and there are countless other sources of news that aren’t TV. In my state, workers who are registered voters have a statutory right to take up to 3 hours off work to vote without loss of pay. That’s a choice other states can and should make. I don’t think it’s helpful, either, to describe basic civics education as a privilege. The US long ago decided that public education through high school was worth providing to all. Clearly there are many, many people who don’t have a good basic education, but speaking as if it’s a privilege for it to be available in the first place encourages regression rather than normalizing it. It is not in fact a privilege for people in the world’s wealthiest nations to have access to public education; it’s standard.

      2. Washi*

        I think that’s more meant in response to people who don’t want to think/talk about politics at all. They don’t want to speak up when they hear something racist, they don’t bother voting or keeping up with current events because it doesn’t affect their day to day lives, etc.

        That’s very different from “if you don’t want actively argue about politics 24/7 you’re privileged!”

        1. So annoyed*

          It’s pretty much impossible not to talk or think about politics at all. You can’t turn on the TV or browse the web without coming across opinions on the current political climate. Trust me, I’ve tried getting a break from constant onslaught of politics and it’s everywhere.

          Generally I’ve found that when people say they don’t talk politics at all, it’s a polite way of saying they don’t want to talk about it with you. Political discussions tend to bring out the worst in people, so some people are being more careful about who they are willing to engage in those discussions with. Look at how quick you are to condemn complete strangers who just want to focus on their work while at the office. We often give advice here for people to use a polite fiction in order to keep personal information private or keep the work climate tolerable, why is avoiding politics any different.

          Your blanket description of people who avoid talking politics is just a way of disparaging people who go about their lives differently than you.

          1. Marmaduke*

            I have an invisible disability, which is one of many reasons I just can’t discuss politics sometimes—thinking about the potential that I may lose insurance coverage at some point is terrifying and devastating and I just cannot always cope with that when I need to be calm and professional. I’m white and appear able-bodied and cishet, so I imagine it seems like my aversion to political talk is all about privilege, but I’m just not ready to drag out my worst fears in the workplace.

            1. bluephone*

              I’m white and middle-class background but I’m also female and live in a household where one member watches Fox News and conspiracy Youtube videos (chemtrails, false flags, shadow govts, EMT pulses, doomsday planning, etc) all day, every day, and the other member is too bogged down by real-life medical crises (family and herself) to push back–and is very much of the “oh, don’t make waves” generation anyway.
              *My 4o-hour grind is 40 hours AWAY from Fox News and 35-minute long, poorly lit Youtube videos about the JFK Papers delivered by red-faced, Blue Lives Matter-shirt-wearing, Hitler-mustache-and-combover-having men in a monotone as they stare directly into and slightly above the 2007 web camera perched on top of their 2015 Dell box running Windows 8 and no anti-virus software.* *So no, I don’t want to discuss politics, listen to other people discuss politics, be in the breakroom while the TV is caught in a channel war between anonymous coworkers fighting on behalf of Fox News, MSNBC, HLN, and CNN, etc.* *I want to clock in at 8, do my work, clock out at 4, then steel myself to go back home to the never-ending Fox News and 35-minute long, poorly lit Youtube videos about “Mexicans just walking into the country all the time” delivered by red-faced, Blue Lives Matter-shirt-wearing, Hitler-mustache-and-combover-having men in a monotone as they stare directly into and slightly above the 2007 web camera perched on top of their 2015 Dell box running Windows 8 and no anti-virus software.*

              And my company is facing a credible threat of workplace violence by two disgruntled ex-employees of the “white, middle class, cishet male, gun-owning, has documented records of verbally violent– and violent against furniture– outbursts and untreated mental health of the ‘white, male shooter'” variety.
              *But I need a damn break from the 12,206th horrible thing that DJT and his cronies have done within the last 5 minutes and my workplace is the only place I can get that break right now*
              Me not doing whatever I need to keep my anxiety disorder under control will NOT change the unhappy circumstance of POC and non-white-looking immigrants needing to carry their passports on them “just in case,” or magically un-imprison all the people stuck in cages along the border. I’m sorry, yes it sucks, yes I’m probably part of the problem but this is what “surviving in America post-2016” looks like now. We’re all just doing what we can to get by until the clock runs out.

              1. pancakes*

                I see what you mean and I’m sorry you and so many of us are going through this, but there’s no generation still alive that’s as broadly “don’t make waves” as you describe. Have a look at Harry Leslie Smith’s work if it’s the WWII generation you’re referring to, for starters. Or Jessica Mitford’s. There have always been people who made waves. They’re very often derided for it and/or ignored by mass market media, but that’s not at all the same phenomenon as an entire generation having consensus on political action. That’s only ever been an illusion.

        2. Lissa*

          I think that’s how it started, but like a lot of things (especially online) it quickly morphed into something else – I think where people assume that if someone says in any context ever “I don’t want to talk about politics” they mean what you say in your first paragraph.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think different folks respond to this additional stress in different ways. I am way more stressed out on a day-to-day basis about my survival because of the current climate and administration. However, I find that talking about it makes me fixate on things that make me feel really disempowered, dysfunctional, and helpless. I’m happy to engage in conversation outside of work, but in order to be even halfway functional, I do need some downtime or breathing room where I can turn off that part of my brain.

      Which isn’t to say that your experience is different than mine—it probably is, and it’s valid! And there are moments when there’s no other option but to raise these issues. But outside of those moments, folks may diverge on how they want to exist at work.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I grew up in a totalitarian regime and it was deeply ingrained in people to keep their mouth shut about politics at work. That was how they stayed employed and (in some cases apparently) out of jail. Every team had at least one informant. So I admit I slipped back into that mode fairly easily when 2016 rolled around. So did everyone else I work with. This does not mean we/they do not discuss it through other channels, or that we do not stay involved (ok I am only very marginally involved, but others are), or that they are not allies. It’s just that talking about it at work will serve no purpose other than to encourage the other side to speak out too. And what the other side will say is not going to sound good. And they will be saying these things from a position of power (at least where I work) and loud enough for the employees who belong to marginalized groups to hear. (We had a bit of that going on in our office, in 2016 in the 4-6 months leading up to the election. A lot of loud political chat from the other side of the aisle. It made me not want to go to work.) At least now, everyone keeps quiet, 45’s supporters included.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Yes – I feel that introducing political conversation at work is a really good way to put vulnerable people in a really uncomfortable – and sometimes dangerous – position.

        This isn’t a black and white situation. I don’t think it’d fair to come down on a single judgment call on this topic because there are several ways it impacts people, and many of them are at odds. And lots of different kinds of life experience come into play, so not all of these ways will be common knowledge for everyone.

  4. JDC*

    Thank you! I sometimes just want to go through a day or at least have a meal not hearing about it. I’m beyond exhausted. I told my husband I’m about to just vote for whoever I don’t have to hear about. Ha

    1. Life is Good*

      I have tried to not talk about, watch or listen to anything about it for a week. While it was awesome not having to hear “the shit du jour”, I also found I missed a lot of other news events that happened when I took my vacation away from politics. It’s a shame that it takes up so much of a newscast. God help us.

      1. Jdc*

        My husband likes to watch the news in the morning but it just angers me and I don’t like to start my day annoyed. I’m awful in the mornings so I try to keep very calm. I can’t even handle people speaking to me first thing. I read what I need to later on online. Helps me get info but not be harassed by it.

        1. pancakes*

          In my house we used to wake up to our local NPR station’s news on the radio, and switching to classical / ocean sounds / bird song has made mornings a lot more pleasant.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      My mum made her house a no-politics zone during family gatherings. If anyone is talking about it, they’re going off on their own and having private conversations, but so far, no one has brought it up at the dinner table, thankfully.

  5. JokeyJules*

    my coworkers love talking politics and i hate it. I don’t think it’s conducive to a positive work environment, even if everyone is on the same page.

    So, I play dumb. If they ask who i’m voting for I tell them i’m making my decision based on the moon alignment that day (not to belittle those who do that, I just know they wont ask any follow-up questions), and when they ask if I heard about some politician this or that, I just start talking about Beyonce or literally any other topic. I’ve done the whole “i dont like talking politics at work because of XYZ”, “i see enough of that outside work, can we not?” things, but for whatever reason it isn’t as effective as allegedly basing your voting choices on the moon and pondering if a certain politician is related to whomever made the first plate of Nachos (the answer is no, nobody in politics in the US appears to be directly related to Ignacio Anaya Garcia).

    1. Jamie*

      If they ask who i’m voting for I tell them i’m making my decision based on the moon alignment that day

      I hope your tone is sufficiently sarcastic or whimsical when you say this. If taken seriously you could cause them to doubt your judgement on other logical, work related, issues and there are ways to get out of the discussion without hurting your reputation.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I…literally cannot imagine taking a coworker so seriously on a clearly flippant comment like that, that I would even consider doubting their judgment about anything else. I seriously doubt that’s a likely outcome, regardless of tone.

        1. Jamie*

          I’m sure you’re right for the most part, but I’ve worked with people who said similar you’d think could not possibly be serious, but they were. Once you’ve seen that you wonder.

        2. JokeyJules*

          without giving too much info away, I work in an industry that can attract a pretty funky bunch. Even if i was serious, that wouldn’t be the most odd thing i’ve heard a coworker say in a regular day-to-day conversation. And yet, we function. *shrug*

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          You are posting on a site that’s had a letter from someone whose employee cursed another employee with a voodoo doll and the other employee left work because of it.

          Phases of the moon is mild compared to, say, Meyer’s Briggs.

      2. JokeyJules*

        my username is JokeyJules for a reason! I assure you, they don’t question my professionalism, judgement, or capacity to do my work well.

  6. Hiding out*

    Thanks for this!! Now debating on if I should share this at work. One issue for me is that others around me will make disparaging comments or misrepresent news stories to each other – I am just within earshot. I definitely am keeping my door shut more than I would like to avoid listening in.

  7. Lena Clare*

    Particularly agree with the sentiment that silence is not tacit agreement.

    I’d hope that “politics pushers” would read this article and, crucially, take it on board, but I don’t think many will absorb it. Most I know think that getting on their soapbox is worthwhile.

    I think it’s going to come down to the suffering-uncomfortably-in-silence listeners to point out ‘politics is a no-go area here!’

  8. Bloopmaster*

    But what do you do when people try to shut down appropriate work-related discussions (often around issues of diversity/equity) by claiming that such discussions are “political”? For example: A coworker who disparages or shuts down a diversity initiative or sexual harassment training because there’s “no need to bring politics into the office”.

    1. J*

      Diversity and sexual harassment policies aren’t “politics.” They are based on laws which could have serious legal and financial consequences for your business. People don’t make employees attend sexual harassment training because they agree with the politics of the hashtag du jour. They hold sexual harassment training because Title IX is a federal law and they don’t want the company to get sued.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “We’re not debating politics here; we’re talking about workplace policies and practices that directly affect our legal compliance, our culture, and our ability to attract and retain good employees.”

      1. metageeky*

        There’s a very tricky line here. What if the politics under discussion involve undermining the legislations that mandate legal compliance? We’ve seen weakening of Title IX in higher education of late, explicit removal of guidances protecting trans students in K-12, and other similar efforts.

        1. J*

          But they’re still not discussing politics. They’re discussing the company’s policy and how the company will comply with the law as written. If the company policy says, “All employees will attend annual sexual harassment training,” that has nothing whatsoever to do with Democrats or Republicans or Labor or anything else. It’s about protecting employees, promoting positive work culture, and complying with the law.

          I don’t see any reason to change Alison’s response.

    3. MayLou*

      I ran into something akin to this a while back. I work in an office where our client group is directly affected by political decisions (most receive state benefits) and one of my colleagues had recently had a meeting with the government minister in charge of the department that managed state benefits, to discuss and advocate for a change in policy (which was successful, hurrah!). I was asking that colleague about the meeting, and from across the room another colleague suddenly yelled “Would you STOP going on about [minister’s name]?!” really forcefully and aggressively. I was stunned, and after a minute of stuttering I started crying, packed up all my stuff and left the office. I sent a text to my manager from the car, as she was out of the office (it was only the three of us in the building that afternoon, or I don’t think he’d have done it) and we debriefed the following week.

      The context to all of this was that Shouting Colleague leans more politically conservative than most of the rest of the office, and often ribs Other Colleague about politics (he also makes lots of jokey remarks about how they’re the only men in the office, haha, isn’t that funny, it’s because of EQUALITY and other garbage). I can only assume that he takes any criticism of Government Minister personally, because he votes for the party that GM used to belong to, but he had never said anything in the past and in fact initiates most of the political conversations in the office.

      I love where I work, but occasionally I get frustrated that the No Politics rule isn’t enforced better, and that the fact that sometimes politically-adjacent topics are legitimately work-related is used as an excuse for non-work-related political chatter. I also react really, really badly to being shouted at by an older man who is sitting behind me, and I was feeling sick with anxiety about going back into the office the next week. The two are not unrelated.

      1. MayLou*

        I failed to include my point, which was that it is indeed tricky to navigate around “no politics in the office” and “politically-relevant work discussions” and find an appropriate boundary, but it’s also really important. Both Shouty Colleague and I would probably feel a lot more comfortable at work if we didn’t know the political leanings of most of our colleagues. I very much admire one particular woman who is so professionally cautious and discreet that after almost six months of working with her, all I know about her is that she attends a church (and I only know that because she also works there, and I once asked her what her other job was) and has a cat. She doesn’t come across as distant, aloof or stand-offish, and yet she is a model of privacy and decorum. I aim to be more like her in that respect.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Regardless of political affiliation or topics you might have been discussing, your coworker is a total jerk for yelling at you.

          I admire people like that woman. I’d like to work on that myself.

      2. bluephone*

        “I also react really, really badly to being shouted at by an older man who is sitting behind me, and I was feeling sick with anxiety about going back into the office the next week.”

        Ugh, that sucks and I’m sorry. I too, JUST CANNOT with being yelled at ESPECIALLY by old white men. And unless said old white man is a firefighter yelling at me so I don’t crushed by an on-fire house, I lose all respect for them from that moment on.* And anything they say (or yell) in the future is suspect because if they’re that “emotional” and “irrational” in day-to-day interactions with people, then how can I possibly trust that their decision-making, judgement, experience, etc. is at all sound?
        TLDR: if your yelling is not in the context of “Godzilla just tore up Main Street, everyone skedaddle!,” you lose the privilege of me taking you seriously. I’ll humor you if you’re in a position of power over me but I absolutely won’t ever respect you again, or hold you in any sort of esteem.

        *This does apply to non-white, non-male, non-old yelling too but in my experience, the yelling primarily came from old white men with HUGE entitlement issues.

    4. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, this is a large part of why I’m skeptical of “no politics” rules – they often do get used to shut down equity discussions.

  9. BenAdminGeek*

    In my experience, the people who most want to argue/discuss politics at work are the people you least want to talk to about the topic.

    Also, every political policy has pros and cons and you never know how someone might be personally impacted by something specific related to legislation, candidates, etc. Why risk hurting your ability to work with someone by making a careless comment?

    1. Jamie*

      every political policy has pros and cons

      That’s not true and creates a false equivalency in cases where none may exist.

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        Perhaps you’re correct! I’ve never run into any political policy that doesn’t have tradeoffs somewhere- people who are positively and negatively impacted by it. Even government “pork” projects or policies favoring a subsidized tax structure for certain wealthy people help the people receiving the preferential treatment. But perhaps there are some policies that have no negative side effects.

        1. Wintermute*

          I think you can make a strong argument in “liberty interests” and the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats in civil rights terms– yes enfranchising disenfranchised groups does reduce the voting power of the favored majority, but it also leads to a more representative democracy which is more fit in the long term to solve its deepest problems. Yes, reducing inequality means some people at the top have to settle for buying slightly smaller tropical islands, but a society with greater equality will generate more AGGREGATE wealth and increase standards of living overall which includes the quality of available luxuries.

          There’s also the age-old FDR quote “don’t those dumb S.O.Bs know I’m trying to save their lives?!”– directed at the wealthy elite opposing his New Deal legislation, because he felt that if he did nothing to end the depression and restore hope and faith in the American Dream we could well have a communist revolution that would see those same elites lined up against the wall and shot. He was exasperated because he felt it was in their own self-interest to give in on farm mortgage forgiveness and on labor rights to ensure they didn’t find themselves drug into the street by revolutionaries forced to desperation by those same farm mortgages and lack of those same labor rights.

        2. Joielle*

          This is an interesting take. Of course, any policy that benefits someone is paid for by someone else, but when that amounts to a tax on someone who has so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it, I think that’s a feature more than a bug. Maybe that’s a “tradeoff” if you’re Jeff Bezos, but pretty clearly a net good for society… so in my mind, not really a tradeoff at all.

          Even if you only mean “tradeoff” in the most literal sense, I’d be careful using that framing to talk about politics. It does come off as the disingenuous both-sides argument that Jamie points out.

        3. Quill*

          Sometimes the tradeoff is “nobody gets everything they want” for “no one is endangered by this policy” and at that point accepting the policy is just good praxis for existing in a society. For example, there was once a ban on trading onion futures enacted because one guy figured out how to gain the onion market to make a fortune – the ban cut off his moneymaking scheme (though not his legitimate business) and preserved everyone else’s ability to make a living off their onions without this guy yanking their chain.

          It would be pretty disingenuous to equate the direct negatives of this policy (one guy no longer has an easy way to make a wheelbarrow of money by gaming the system) to a policy that, for example, gave him the right to form an onion monopoly at the expense of multiple other people trading in good faith.

          1. Wintermute*

            In cases of preventing abuse (or what communists would call “economic violence” which I think sums up things like the Onion Futures affair nicely, he was assaulting their livlihood), there’s a more important interest: Society only survives so long as people stand to gain more by living within the system than they do by burning it all down (figuratively or literally). There is a very strong self-interest in policies that avoid creating bomb-throwing anarchists by reducing people to the point they’ve nothing left to lose. So if taking some of Jeff Bezos’ Scrooge McDuck money pool means avoiding creating revolutionaries, it’s in his highest self-interest to give up some of his wealth.

            1. pancakes*

              You might want to refresh your sense of who exactly talks about “economic violence.” Your comment raised my eyebrows so I did a quick search, and the first several pages of results include reports and white papers from the World Health Organization, the World Bank, Cornell University, the American Psychological Association, and numerous PubMed journal articles. You are of course free to think of all these organizations and authors as communists, or to be sarcastic about guessing at their politics, but the idea that economic violence is something only communists talk about is pretty silly.

              1. pancakes*

                I want to add, too, that people who are communists emphatically do not consider these organizations and all of these researchers fellow communists. Surely that ought to count for something in terms of factual accuracy.

              2. Wintermute*

                My understanding of “economic violence” as used outside of communist thought is that they mean “violence perpetrated on the economically disadvantaged” not “harm caused to individuals by intentional economic deprivation or coercion”. the WHO’s definition is “collective violence by the majority against a disadvantaged minority” and includes racist attacks and ethnic cleansing, assaults of undocumented workers, attacks on the homeless, etc.

                1. pancakes*

                  Your comment that I responded to wasn’t about use of the phrase “outside of communist thought,” though. It was about communist thought. The WHO definition of the phrase is beside the point.

      2. pleaset*

        Oh, I think it’s true.

        Everyone says that slavery was bad, but let’s think about it rationally. Free labor was a definite pro for some people. Right?

        And if you go around saying slavery was terrible, what if someone whose family were big slaveowners overhears you? Please, keep an open mind about the political policy of slavery don’t risk putting your foot in your month!

        1. Jamie*

          Actually, no, if you want to apply logic to it then relying on “free labor” which was stolen via inhumane abuse of other human beings was just going to lead to a collapse of their industry due to artificially low labor to revenue ratio…which they should have been preparing for seeing as the trend for ending slavery was on the rise throughout the world at the time.

          So logically…short term pro but long term con if they had used any type of market forecasting.

          And yes, my treating it as a labor issue was deliberate to show how disgusting it to consider financial profit for a handful of people a pro at the expense of human rights.

          1. BenAdminGeek*

            Jamie, I think pleaset was making a sarcastic comment to support your point.

            I don’t recall saying that all pros and cons are morally equivalent. That’s why we weigh pros and cons when passing laws (well, I guess I should say that I hope legislators are doing that) to effect as much equitable treatment under the law as is possible. But there’s always losers in a system of government, at least in the short-term, and we shouldn’t be blind to that when interacting with real people. That’s why I try to interact with compassion and understanding, though I’m certainly not great at it. Which is another reason I don’t like to discuss politics at work- I want to interact with my peers in a respectful and professional way.

        2. Fiddlesticks*

          pleaset, I hope your comment was intended to be completely sarcastic. “If you go around saying slavery was terrible, what if someone whose family were big slaveowners overhears you?”

          If the descendants of slaveowners hear from me, or anyone else, that slavery is an abomination and are upset by that, they can go suck a big you-know-what.

          Somehow, in today’s world, your comment just doesn’t seem as funny as I hope it was intended to be.

          1. BenAdminGeek*

            I’m quite sure pleaset was trying to make a sarcastic point, and does not truly support slavery. It’s pretty clear from the tone.

            1. Fiddlesticks*

              Sigh… unfortunately, I remember from my Southern youth (which is not yet ancient history) when educated and respected members of white society actually said to each other that “the blacks were better off when they were slaves, they didn’t know how good they had it, and now they just want to sit around and get handouts.” I am not joking. I wish I was.

              1. Yorick*

                I’m from the South and I never knew a single person who would say that (at least out loud in public)

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  Lucky you.

                  I’m from the South. I’ve heard it. Out loud and in public, quietly and in private, more than once. From my elementary school friend’s dad in the 80s to the early-20s guy in a MAGA hat in 2016, it’s still out here. This is a real thing that some people still say and believe.

                2. Fiddlesticks*

                  No, they wouldn’t say it out loud, in public – if you mean where black people could hear. In front of other people who looked and thought like them, yes they did. In the 1970s, in the 1980s, and into the 1990s. I moved far far away in the 1990s, so I don’t know what people say out loud there anymore.

                  Just because you never heard something doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

                3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  Add me in as someone else who definitely heard it, and not all that long ago either.

                4. Blueberry*

                  I’m from the North and I’ve been told it to my face (admittedly by Edgy and Daring young conservatives) as well as in quite a few online discussions.

                5. Elizabeth West*

                  I grew up in southern Missouri in a town so white you could read by it at night, and I’ve definitely heard it.

              2. bluephone*

                Can’t reply further down but yeah, I’m born and raised in the North (near a major East Coast city that’s stereotyped as being liberal) and I’ve heard very similar expressions out loud, with no shame. And if you at all challenged it (or even just raised an eyebrow in a “did I just hear that?” way), you’d get screamed at about reverse racism, welfare queens, etc.

                Never underestimate the ability of people (especially majority groups) to be awful.

      3. Wintermute*

        It really is true from the perspective of the people involved. No one would hold an opinion they think is bad or harms themselves, right? I mean, I hold some opinions that would harm myself because I feel society as a whole would benefit, but even so that’s because I feel it would be better for us all and the positives outweigh the personal costs…

        And at work you might have to interact with those people. It’s easy to draw a line in the abstract and say “if you support X then I don’t care what you think of me!” but when that person that supports X might be someone you rely on for your job, or has control over promotions, or you have to influence to get things done without having explicit authority over them.

      4. random noodle*

        No it doesn’t; it doesn’t comment on the magnitude of those things. At least someone sees a benefit in every policy choice, though the “con” side may fall anywhere from slightly inconvenient to millennium-defining-extreme-inhumanity to those who disagree with that choice.

      5. Gazebo Slayer*

        THANK YOU JAMIE. “I might pay more in taxes because I’m in a higher bracket” is not equivalent to “my little cousin is detained by ICE in horrific conditions” or “I might die if I lose my health insurance.”

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          But our policies aren’t balancing “I might die if I lose my health insurance.” vs “I might pay more in taxes because I’m in a higher bracket”. They are balancing things like “laying off lots of people who work for insurance companies and related industries” vs “universal health care.” We can still potentially say it’s worth it to have universal, state-run healthcare- it’s got strengths as a policy plan. But it has an adverse impact on real-life people. So we can’t pretend that policies have no negatives- we should be realistic about negative impacts so we can attempt to mitigate them as a society where we can.

          1. pancakes*

            The idea that people who presently work in the US insurance industry would not be able to find work in a new nationwide healthcare program is, at best, an unexamined assumption, and at worst, propaganda.

            1. BenAdminGeek*

              I don’t recall saying they’d not be able to find work in a new nationwide healthcare program. However, I think we can both agree that most people don’t enjoy the economic disruption of being laid off. Simply saying “go get a new job” is a very dismissive way of looking at the impact on people’s lives. I’m not weighing in on the moral plusses and minuses of how we do healthcare in America, just that any large-scale policy change will have negative impacts on some people.

              1. pancakes*

                Of course, but large-scale policy changes are also meant to have positive effects. People who don’t have healthcare getting healthcare, for example. No one is “simply saying ‘go get a new job’”—you’re depicting the changes at hand as far more simplistic than they would in fact be. It’s terribly and needlessly disingenuous to say “I’m not weighing in on pluses and minuses” while in fact referring only to minuses.

            2. Allonge*

              That may be the case but still does not make losing their jobs, a positive or neutral matter, for them and their families.

  10. aliciab*

    I work at a newspaper so even though I’m in advertising it’s pretty much impossible to avoid since we end up reading about breaking stories on our own site! The people I sit near who tend to engage with me on the topic (usually brought up by them) all have similar beliefs to me, but I know there are people within earshot who disagree. I always try to stay neutral and react to the facts only and not go off on certain politicians generally but it’s hard to not appear biased (because I am). My plan for the next year (!) is to just try to stay as neutral as possible when it inevitably comes up.

    Also, I just got an ad for a politician while reading this…pretty funny coincidence given the topic!

        1. aliciab*

          Nope, it was an ad for a political candidate on this site, not on my work’s site. I’ll screenshot it if happens again!

  11. Richard Hershberger*

    This is where having obscure interests helps. I have a serious interest in early baseball history, as in writing scholarly articles on it, and I have a book out. I make a point of not boring random persons on the street with this stuff. They don’t care, and that is fine. But bore me with your stuff? How about a long discourse on whether or not Boston was robbed of the 1871 pennant, bringing in the background from earlier years of how series of games were organized and of player eligibility rules, and putting these together with the situation of the new baseball league? I could give you a half hour presentation on the topic without preparation, off the top of my head. Actually, a half hour presentation would be tough without prep. Make it an hour. Give me prep time and I can bring that down.

    1. Jamie*

      You would make me want to bring up politics, because I love nothing more than to learn about obscure facts from history. If you were my co-worker I’d treat you like my own personal podcast until you caught on to my sneaky plan!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Here’s a freebie: You can’t understand professional baseball in the 1870s unless you take the Panic of 1873 into account. A whole bunch of stuff made a lot more sense to me once I put those together.

        1. Aphrodite*

          Richard, it wouldn’t be the same–a real shame–but would you consider posting on the weekend thread about this. I’m not really a baseball fan but I would find fascinating the relationship between professional baseball and the Panic of 1873 plus any other things you’d care to share. Your post couldn’t be long enough for me.

          If you say yes I will be breathlessly awaiting the weekend (more than usual).

          1. bluephone*

            That would be awesome! one of my great-uncles supposedly was recruited by the Philadelphia A’s (the precursor to the Phillies) but chose college instead, and was blacklisted from professional baseball forevermore. I’ve been meaning to learn more about early baseball history to get a better idea of everything (and maybe even find out if this story is true).

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              It doesn’t sound likely, or at least is garbled. Being recruited and declining doesn’t get anyone blacklisted. Signing a contract and not fulfilling it is more plausible, but even then not likely, unless it involved playing for some outlaw professional league. On the other hand, being recruited out of high school, choosing to play college ball instead, and not being recruited, for whatever reason, after college? Utterly unremarkable.

              Oh, and the current Phillies have been around since 1883. There were various teams going by “Athletics” both before and after that, up to and including the current Oakland A’s, who previously were the Kansas City A’s, and before that the Philadelphia A’s.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Real name: This was a decision I made over twenty years ago. Using my real name means that I have to stop and consider “Do I want my real name associated with this?” before I post. I won’t say that I am proud of everything that I have ever posted, but the real name imposes restraint that a nym would not.

              Speaking of real names, my Facebook feed is mostly early baseball history. I have been doing a “150 years ago today in baseball” daily feature since last spring, started in honor of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. I will probably wind it down for the winter in a month or so, making it merely occasional until next spring. But in the meantime, for those who are interested, I accept friend requests.

              1. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

                Ooooooo I like the rational behind the real name thing! (But obviously am not brave enough to adopt it ;)

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          Any time. There are some excerpts on YouTube, if you’re interested – Minnesota Opera has a really good channel.

          It’s an intriguing piece.

    2. TypityTypeType*

      I rather like that: We can learn to be boring about something that is NOT politics, in pure self-defense. I myself can glaze anybody’s eyes over with classic rock observations, history, and general trivia.

      And I’d actually kind of like to hear that baseball presentation :)

    3. pleaset*

      I’ve got obscure interests too. Maybe not as obscure as yours, but still.

      But you know what? For some people, politics is not just an interest. It’s about survival and other serious challenges. Not being deported. Not being bankrupted by medical bills. Not being afraid to call the police for help. Not being shut out of your spouses hospital room because of your gender. Not having your five-year-old arrested for a tantrum at school.

      Sorry you find that boring.

      I can see finding it tiring to hear about. It’s worse to live it.

      Oh, and climate change.

      Bully for you on having some topic you can love as hobby.

      1. Jamie*

        Many people are personally affected by the issues you name and many others. I don’t see anyone here dismissing their importance, but rather how to deal with such strong feelings on critical matters and keep it out of the workplace.

        And while with some people I can talk about politics extensively, the same old talking points can get boring both with those with whom you agree and boring while infuriating with those with whom you disagree and neither will change your mind. It’s possible to care passionately about politics and find the subject boring with some people.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        The thing is, (1) based on your comment, you and I agree on most or all political points; and (2) droning on about it to me won’t help anything, except perhaps making you feel better; leading to (3) how obliged am I to sit and listen to you drone on in order to make you feel better?

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          This is where I’m at, especially point 3. As a blank woman, I wake up every day knowing that their are people out there that want me dead because of the color of my skin and people in government are actively working to further disenfranchise me and people who look like me – I don’t want to hear about it at work. For eight hours of my day, I can think about something else less depressing. When a coworker brings up politics around me (which doesn’t happen anymore because I work from home full-time – yay!), I no longer have those eight hours of peace, even if I agree with them. Shit is exhausting.

          1. fposte*

            And I think that touches on the issue for me–it’s the removal of choice about being exposed to something enervating.

              1. Gumby*

                My book club just read both The Invisible Man and Invisible Man (frankly, I wouldn’t recommend it as it was quite depressing and frustrating and horrifying, etc.) so it was even, in a way, quite apropos.

        2. Lissa*

          Yeah this is what I don’t understand about the “you know politics is a matter of survival, right?” comments. It assumes that every person who is impacted severely by certain political policies wants to talk about it all the time, or that because people are impacted it means it’s somehow wrong to say “let’s change the subject”. If someone doesn’t want to talk about it, what is the end goal of deciding they don’t get to make the decision and they in fact, should engage in political discussions?

          1. Jennifer*

            Not everyone wants to talk about it all the time, I certainly don’t. But if it comes up, like the example listed below where someone expressed support for a racist stance taken by a politician, you can’t just bury your head in the sand and say “no politics.” It’s not really about politics.

          2. pleaset*

            “It assumes that every person who is impacted severely by certain political policies wants to talk about it all the time, ”

            I said nothing about us all wanting to talk about it all the time. My point is equating talking about politics/survival to some hobby is insulting.

            Also, what Jennifer said.

            1. Princesa Zelda*

              I’m a working class queer female-shaped person. I absolutely do not want to know what my coworkers think about gay rights or abortion rights or anything else. The results can be a matter of life and death. What Fergus and Jane think about the president’s latest rally or policy proposal is not, and also has the potential of stressing me all the way out.

              Honestly, there’s a lot of privilege inherent in having to capability of being a Political Person all hours of the day. I literally study political science academically for fun and having to perform politics on demand exhausts me. It’s got to be much, much harder for people whose politicized existences are compounded by more than just one or two factors, who have other stresses in their lives, who need a barrier. Bringing politics to work just exacerbates the stress of being politicized, in my experience.

      3. Washi*

        This is pretty hostile. I think most of us can tell the difference between the folks who are being honest about how policies affect their lives and the ones who monologue on and on just to hear themselves talk.

        1. pleaset*

          I meant to be hostile.

          “I think most of us can tell the difference between the folks who are being honest about how policies affect their lives and the ones who monologue on and on just to hear themselves talk.”

          I get enough “Why are you people always talking about race” to know the “most” is not enough.

          1. pleaset*

            Adding – I have a transgender former classmate who is frequently talking about transgender issue and the bigotry he faces. And I’ll be honest – I find it tiresome. I don’t care that much. I don’t have the energy to care. But I wouldn’t dare to suggest he’s droning on or that it’s anything like my talking too much about my own hobbies.

            And it’d be horrendous BS for me to suggest he dial it back – that’d be complicit in his oppression. As it is, I’m perhaps a little complicit in not being actively supportive.

      4. AnotherAlison*

        That seems like an unnecessarily rude response. I wonder why people would prefer not to engage in political discussion.

        What frustrates me is that many people only want to talk and bash people who don’t. I’m actively working on three projects at my job that support reducing GHG emissions and fighting climate change, and yet you would never engage me in a climate change protest. You don’t really know what people are doing. Perhaps Richard is taking action, but you’re mad because he doesn’t want to talk. Even if someone supports “my” side, some people (not you, don’t know you) are not informed and I don’t want to hear their misinformed comments. That’s why I stay out of it.

        1. BenAdminGeek*


          I’d also add that the people I most hate hearing from are misinformed people who agree with me. It’s bad enough hearing rote talking points from the other side- when it’s my own side I just want to take them aside and tell them never to speak again if they are just going to damage people’s understanding of our side…. but again, this is why I hate politics in the workplace.

      5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        There are three cases before the Supreme Court right now that directly impact my ability to hold a job. It’s extremely personal. I still don’t want to talk about it at work.

      6. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        At some point, yes, we are violently in agreement.

        Given that, the question is, Is talking about it *here and now* going to do anything other than increase my stress levels? Being stressed isn’t going to cause me to spend more time calling my representatives, or protesting on the Common, or donate more money to Planned Parenthood.

        Sometimes I want to be told about an upcoming protest, or a bill I should call my representatives about. That doesn’t mean I need eight emails a day, every day, saying “Horrible things are happening! Donate now!” Or that I have infinite bandwidth for the details of the news. (A friend of mine in London posted yesterday about Brexit, with links, and then said “this will all probably change in the next few hours.” Nothing would actually have been lost if I hadn’t read that post, with links to Twitter snark.)

      7. Meepmeep*

        Getting yourself all in a tizzy in a political argument at the office won’t do a thing to solve any of these problems. You want to “do something”? Go and vote. Plant a tree or two or twenty. Donate to the causes you want to support. Literally none of the situations you describe will get better just because you get into a political argument with Bob who sits in the next cubicle. Nor will you change Bob’s mind this way. Do you think he can change your mind? Well, he feels the same way.

        1. pancakes*

          As I’ve said elsewhere in these comments I broadly agree that people should probably try to avoid discussing politics in most workplaces, but 1) there are ways to do so without getting in a tizzy, and 2) it’s a bit over the top to say that no one ever changes their mind based on talking to people with opposing views.

    4. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

      I would GLADLY sit through your hour presentation on early baseball.
      And I have a hard time sitting and listening for half that amount of time.

      Color me a fan!

          1. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

            Oh boy! What a treat! Gotta order. Hope there’s some rainy days in the week ahead. Nuthin’ better than a good book on a rainy day. Hot chocolate, maybe some crackers.

            Thanks so much for posting this link!

    5. Traffic_Spiral*

      This is how I shut down political talk. I respond by talking about ingrown toenails, fandom opinions, or something else I know the other person doesn’t want to hear. Then when they’re like “what does that have to do with [political issue]?” I say “oh, I’ve told you I don’t talk politics at work, but here we are, so I figured it was ‘Talk About Unwanted Things Day.’ Anyways, so this idiot pedicurist – and I didn’t even want the pedicure, I was just doing mani-pedis because my friend wanted it – she decides to do rounded tips on my toenails! Rounded! So now I’m stuffing cotton under the edges and it’s stopped with the yellow pus – but there’s this sorta clear goo…”

      Next time it’s “yeah, that’s a good point, Sue – just like how Captain American TOTALLY shouldn’t have gone back in time to be with Peggy. I mean, what kind of plot resolution was that? Oh, I forget, you don’t watch Marvel. So you see, in WWII there was this skinny little guy who wanted to join the army…”

      Keep it up and they stop.

      1. Blueberry*

        ahahah you don’t want to talk to some of us about Steve Rogers if you want to avoid politics. “And he was an immigrant and visibly disabled and probably got told by people who supported eugenics that society would be better off without him…”

        1. Shad*

          Visibly and invisibly disabled, grew up poor, and lived in a neighborhood with high proportions of both immigrants and queer people. Ran a fully integrated unit, both across racial lines and including at least one woman.
          And all of that is pure canon, before you get into how many people think Bucky was more than just a friend.
          Plus his single biggest self stated motivation has always been standing up to those he sees as bullies. So not only does he have personal experience, his stated motivations line up with a certain viewpoint as well.
          And especially if you go with the MCU narratives, a lot of it tends to juxtapose well with political discussions in general if that’s the angle someone wants to take.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Hahahahaha, bringing up the MCU is totally in my bag of tricks and I have done it many times. Either the other person is as big a Marvel nerd as me, and we get off the uncomfortable topic, or they’re completely baffled and walk away. Win! \0/

      3. pancakes*

        I’d think a lot less of someone who played strange, indirect little games in conversation that way, and wouldn’t think anything less of a person who instead said something along the lines of, “I’ve been catching up on that and now I’m a bit burnt out, mind if we talk about something else?” or simply “let’s talk about something more cheerful right now.” Playing a one-sided game is pretty self-regarding, antagonistic, and inarticulate.

  12. Oh FFS*

    Just this morning in a group conference call, the president of my company made a comment (with negative undertones) about Greta Thornberg. Context: We are preparing to staff a public meeting about a controversial project here in the US and we were discussing how to conduct ourselves at this meeting in response to activists, unhappy citizens, and opposing non-governmental organizations. He essentially meant to convey he was diminishing her commitment and belief system. It was clear he was rolling his eyes at her and using her as an example of what to do when someone of her ilk shows up to either comment, protest, or question the validity of the environmental review process.

    No one, including me, responded with the exception of one anonymous chuckle on the conference call. I have no way of knowing if that person was agreeing with him or uncomfortable with the silence after. The company president isn’t self aware enough to understand how his comment may not have been universally agreed with. What’s more, I can think of several other times where, because of the nature of the work we do, he made advertised his political leanings and when one or two employees of varying levels pushed back, he responded with “I don’t want this to become an open forum discussion “. The clear implication here is that he gets to say what he wants however he wants and he doesn’t want opposing ideas. The hypocrisy is clear and unambiguous.

    This is further complicated by his defense of one of my colleagues who came to him with concerns that he felt uncomfortable at a company social function (holiday party) because an invited retired manager made some political statements (That are contrary to the employee’s beliefs and the company president’s) during a planned speech. The president of the company asked us all to remember that not everyone shares the same political views and we should not make comments that could alienate anyone. Essentially, he is the biggest offender here and I anticipate the next 12 months to be an exercise in sitting on my tongue. I can respect everyone’s right to their own political views. I cannot respect the hypocritical application of different rules depending on your left or right leanings.

    1. Dot*

      Obviously you’ve never worked in a liberal area. These kinds of one-sided conversations are a daily occurrence. The hypocrisy one both sides is real.

      1. Oh FFS*

        How did you come to that conclusion? I work for an environmental consulting firm in a blue state with mostly liberal colleagues.

        1. Dot*

          Do you liberal colleagues make political comments that you agree with, in that case?

          And do you object to them doing that if they do? Or do you just object to the ones you disagree with?

          I’m asking because in my blue state, only liberals get to speak up. That’s what I’ve seen. And they do it in a way that suggests that they’ve already assumed everyone around them agrees with them. I’ve noticed this since my college days, and I’m in my mid-thirties now. It’s only gotten worse over time.

          1. Bark*

            I live a rural red area in a purple state and see the same thing with conservatives. They orate like clearly everyone in the vicinity agrees with them and their racist thoughts.

            1. I like turtles*

              I’m confused by your comment. Are you inferring all conservatives are racist, or are you just giving an example of more extreme comments you here from a few individuals?

          2. Hope*

            Let me assure you, in my red state, the exact same thing happens with conservatives.

            It is the nature of being the majority that people assume everyone agrees with them, unfortunately.

          3. Oh FFS*

            The nature of our work is inherently political. We have all (both left [I believe there are more left leaning colleagues] and right leaning colleagues) adapted to discussing politics internally within the context of our jobs by using language like “in light of the current administration’s policy on ….., we can/can’t depend on receiving government contracts to conduct X, Y, or Z, but we are seeing the government solicit requests for qualifications to conduct A, B, or C types of work.” In discussions with our clients, we never offer an opinion, political or otherwise, on the rightness or wrongness of the project. That’s simply a professional standard we all adhere to, including the president of the company.

            One on one, I’m not sure how much political discussion goes on among my colleagues. I don’t discuss it at all outside of how the current administration will either positively or negatively affect revenue streams and the backlog of work we have to do that keeps people employed.

            My point was, and remains, that my colleagues, aside from our company president, do not announce their political leanings in open meetings. Only the president of the company does that. I have only ever seen him push back and shut it down on a rare few occasions (in the 13 years I’ve worked here) when someone disagrees with him.

            A practical example: ICE put out a request for qualifications to perform some work to support ICE’s mission and he began the open forum discussion by stating, “I know this won’t be popular with some of you, but…..” Several colleagues inquired about the amount of revenue that could be expected stated that if the contract was lucrative enough, we would submit our qualifications. He answered those questions freely and laughed about being flexible with respect to our convictions for the right amount of cash. When a principal stated he was uncomfortable working for ICE, the president stated, “My intent was not to open this for discussion, and I don’t want to make this political. I’m telling you we are tracking this opportunity.”

            The hypocrisy is blatant and not a one-off.

            1. Dot*

              I’m not sure why you think someone stating they’re “uncomfortable” working for ICE isn’t a political statement. It sounds like it happens on both sides.

              1. Oh FFS*

                I think you’re ignoring the central point here. The hypocrisy. The president of the company was all for discussing politics and soliciting political opinions from those who agreed with him about the opportunity to work for ICE. He engaged and encouraged enthusiastically. He only decided it was “political” when someone stated a political opinion that clearly did not align with his political opinions. The hypocrisy here is obvious and again, not a one-off. Also, his manner of opening it up for discussion, allowing employees to believe it would be an exchange of ideas only to shut it down immediately upon the first sign of disagreement highlights his inability to consistently treat each employee using the same set of standards. Either invite opinions and discuss them or don’t, but don’t allow political bias to dictate how you run your business and treat your employees.

                I get the sense that you are making this a “liberals do it too!” kind of exchange, but my intent was to state that in my case, the double standard exists because of the biased actions of leadership. You could insert Republican, Democrat, Socialist, or Communist in front of his name and it would still be a problem, especially in my industry where politics is part of the fabric of our work.

                1. Dot*

                  The fact that you’re passing off your personal political viewpoints as facts is exactly how these boundaries get crossed in the workplace. Others may disagree with you, and feel just as strongly about their own ethics and morals. Neither you nor anyone else gets to be the moral arbiter on these issues.

                2. Wintermute*

                  50% of America feels the opposite that you do and thinks it’s a moral and ethical matter as well.

                  That’s why you don’t talk politics at work, because you need to work together with people that are in that 50%. You might not think there are any, but that’s potentially because once you reach a critical mass of people saying “but my politics are DIFFERENT they’re RIGHT meaning it’s a moral issue, the other side is WRONG so they’re not” then people just learn to shut up and go along to get along (while thinking less of you all the while).

                  There are decent, honest Americans on both sides of every issue, for reasons of their own, and philosophically consistent arguments for both sides, but because we all need to get along we decide not to have that argument at work.

                3. Gazebo Slayer*

                  There are certain views that are honestly incompatible with being a decent person. Political issues affect real people.

                4. pancakes*

                  @Wintermute The idea that public opinion on this and other contentious issues is split 50/50 is simply inaccurate, and trying to create confusion around the actual numbers benefits only the far right.

              2. Jules the 3rd*

                Oh FFs is unhappy that the boss and people who agree with him can talk politics, but the boss shuts it down if the statement disagrees with his opinions, by saying ‘we’re not going to talk politics.’

                It is not ‘both sides’, though FFs screening to make the language neutral / anonymous makes is a little hard to see.

                1. Oh FFS*

                  Yes. I’m screening the language to make it less partisan because the issue could exist no matter what political party/persuasion (Republican, Democrat, Socialist, Communist, Beekeeper) is placed in front of the company president’s name. He has demonstrated time and again he is open to discussing politics, enthusiastic even, and moreover is the chief initiator of those discussions. My problem isn’t with different viewpoints, it is the blatant hypocrisy he exhibits. He treats people differently and is selectively receptive to contributions based upon their political persuasion. It feels a little bit like the Snoopy cartoon and Lucy with her football. Politics is inherently part of work, so the opportunity for it to come up as a topic regularly is certainly there but out of necessity, we have all learned to strip opinion out of the dialogue or we would never get anything done! That said, with him, I regularly see and hear what I have described above. It’s particularly problematic for me because it happens in an open forum.

                  I think Dot thinks I’m complaining about conservatives and she is responding as if this is a ”liberals do it too!” situation where that wasn’t my intent at all. It’s more of us ”the president of the company is the chief offender here, yet he feels completely justified in showing blatant bias and he, in fact, is the one making everyone feel uncomfortable!” kind of situation. We are a fairly small company, and so we know each other quite well. I can say that in my opinion, people on either side of the aisle for lack of a more artful term, are reasonable folks and even those who share his political opinions see the hypocrisy. As I originally stated, the next 12 months are going to be uncomfortable for everyone (… except maybe him.. lol) and as I’m nearing the end of my career here, maybe I’ll have a difficult time not calling him out on it.

              3. Quill*

                In both of the cases you’ve pointed out, the crux of the matter is not the political spectrum, but the fact that scientific fact and people’s human rights (to seek asylum) have become politicized.

          4. pancakes*

            Dot, what keeps you from speaking up? You’ve had the ability to do so all along. If you avoid doing so because you fear your politics would make you unpopular among coworkers or acquaintances, that’s something else entirely.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        This is not exclusive to either liberals or conservatives. It has nothing to do with hypocrisy either.

    2. Dagny*

      How should one deal with angry, vicious little teenagers who show up to talk to heads of state in purple pants and wrinkled flannel, when they are being shoved forth as obedient little pets of powerful people? Just asking.

      1. Homo neanderthalensis*

        Well if I was a teenager looking at a planet earth that was far more wrecked then the planet earth left to my parents I’d be pretty angry and vicious too. I also don’t see what’s wrong with purple pants or wrinkled flannel.

      2. Blueberry*

        I’ve met and heard of many vicious teenagers in my life, including ones who called me slurs based on the color of my skin, ones who declared their intent to beat up my friend for being queer, and ones who publicly disrespected older people of color. Caring about the environment doesn’t necessarily makes a teenager vicious, especially compared to those I just described

      3. Oh FFS*

        Well…. that’s certainly a departure from my point about discussion of politics in the workplace and the negative influence a person of power can have in the workplace when he exhibits political bias and conducts himself in a less than impartial manner with professional adults.

        To answer a slightly less ragey and indignant form of your question: My plan, should I encounter an activist during my work, is to remain professional, refrain from commenting on his or her person, character, clothing, age, or motivations, and answer her questions to the best of my ability within the confines of my job description. It’s work.

        I cannot promise however, if the opportunity presents itself and I am in no danger of being overheard, that I won’t congratulate her on her passion and commitment to something larger than herself and more important than ensuring she meets your sartorial standards. I imagine we have plenty of teenaged girls in the world who are already hyperfocused on wearing color coordinated, unwrinkled clothing such that we don’t have to be overwrought about the next generation abandoning Seventeen Magazine’s hottest trends.

      4. bluephone*

        I’m sorry that you’re struggling but the Internet has a wealth of information about free and low-cost mental health resources, including anger management, and how to access those resources. One such place is the archives at the Captain Awkward advice column. I hope you’re able to find someone to talk to because everyone deserves to not be ruled by bitterness and fear (or unfocused anger that has no productive outlet).

      5. Gazebo Slayer*

        “Obedient little pets of powerful people”? Wow. What kind of conspiracy-theory YouTube videos have you been watching? Are you going to start ranting about QAnon next?

        1. Oh FFS*

          Caveat* This is pure speculation with respect to Dagny. I have noticed that some of the more extremely out of proportion negative reactions to Greta Thornberg totally discount that she is living with Aspergers and selective mutism, which makes it extremely challenging for her to communicate effectively in situations that aren’t familiar and comfortable. As a result, she is hyper focused on the content of the message and while she may be angry about climate change and the ineffective or even impotent actions (inactions) of people with the power to do something about it, a good deal of the passion and facial expressions are also the result of tangible and extreme anxiety. It’s easier to belittle her method of delivery than to understand her for those people who don’t care for her message.

          1. pancakes*

            Sure, that’s definitely a possibility, but there are also a lot of people who do believe she communicates effectively, and “effectively” doesn’t mean “like a news anchor,” or “like a professional with media training,” or “makes people feel at ease.”

    1. BennyJets*

      Came here to say that. The conversation in the polling station line withy neighbours was enough for me. Looking forward to watching the returns tonight. My riding should change colour (happily for me).

  13. Cloudy with sunny breaks*

    I try and limit my political discussions to voting and the act of voting. And, since Canada is holding it’s federal elections today – Canadians, go vote!!

    1. BelleMorte*

      This is also polling to be an extremely close election, so yes your vote matters, Canada. Go VOTE!

  14. HappySnoopy*

    Surprised the article didn’t address any policies. In gov positions it may literally be illegal to discuss politics. In US, fed employees are subject to The Hatch Act (originally enacted 1939) and US military has an equivalent in their policies. State/municipal govs may have similar regs.

    1. Fiddlesticks*

      In state/local gov, we can discuss politics in a neutral way (“I hear that Ambassador Taylor will be testifying to a Congressional panel on Tuesday, that should be interesting”), but while on the job we can’t wear campaign buttons, pass out campaign literature, urge coworkers to vote for a candidate, or solicit candidate donations. It’s a gray area as to whether we can or should discuss the merits/perfidies of a particular incumbent politician or political candidate, but it certainly goes on all the time in a low-key way. We’re only human, after all!

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, that’s the line that we tiptoe along as well. Our work also has elements that could be considered political, and of course funding is hugely dependent on politics, so it can be harder to figure where the boundaries are.

      2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        Same here. And yes, both discussion of electoral politics and of political points of view go on all the time. We cannot do campaign work or party work is all.
        And obviously a great many political events affect our work directly, and we discuss how they affect our work.

        Speaking personally, I keep my non work-related political discussion to a minimum. I’m a supervisor, so I need to be extra aware of not making people uncomfortable… and not judging people based on their beliefs. And frankly it gets tiresome. I’m a member of groups personally affected by a lot of the contentious issues. I’m also very, very politically involved outside the office (as are many government employees I know), so I really don’t need more of it at work. Nor would I ever want to make an assumption my coworkers need to be educated by me personally on an issue, or be responsible for their education. If I’d wanted that I’d have gone to work for an advocacy organization.

    2. J*

      Federal employees are absolutely allowed to discuss politics and political matters among themselves while at the workplace. The Hatch Act is narrower than the public tends to think, and is quite clear about what we may and may not do and in what scenarios.

      a Fed

      1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        I was wondering, because that seemed extreme! I work for a European government, and we’re absolutely allowed to discuss politics among ourselves, and indeed privately however we want. What we’re not allowed do is engage with a political party, be politically active / run for office, or publicly manifest political opinions (Facebook posts pro- or anti- something, or participating in protests/parades).

  15. Sara without an H*

    This. Please.

    Full disclosure: My opinions are sufficiently heterodox that I’ve been known to offend both Left and Right. Since I have to work with both, I would much, much rather leave politics alone while I’m on my employer’s dime.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      That’s me. Also, I find it easier to get along with my coworkers if I don’t thing they’re stupid – so banning politics helps.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        This is right here where I line up. I don’t want to know pretty much anything about my coworkers’ personal opinions or beliefs because I can’t not-work with them. So either they agree with me and it doesn’t matter, or they don’t and, depending on the topic of disagreement, I run the risk of having a harder time maintaining a decent working relationship with them. No thanks.

    2. Wintermute*

      As a libertarian socialist, I feel your pain. Though on the flip side I can find common cause with just about anyone anywhere on the spectrum of political opinions as long as they don’t insist I agree with them on everything.

        1. Cordoba*

          “Libertarian Socialism” is very much a position that exists.

          You don’t need anybody to “answer that” since you can learn all about it on the sizeable and readily-available Wikipedia entry.

          1. Joielle*

            Ha! It is indeed a thing, but you have to admit that the two words together sound like an oxymoron.

        2. logicbutton*

          It’s not what you think! It’s more like anarchism. The term actually predates what a lot of people now think of as libertarianism.

        3. Wintermute*

          the short version is that voluntary associations of stakeholders are superior to authority structures imposed from without: worker co-ops and unions not corporate boards, resident co-ops not landlords. Also in there and very relevant to the modern economy is the idea that right of free use does not include the right to DISuse– owning a building does not entitle you to let it sit empty because you want to raise rent costs elsewhere, owning a field doesn’t allow you to leave it unplanted if someone else could make gainful use of it just because you want to control the price of crops. Though they fundamentally believe in libertarian ideas of the right to freely use your personal property as you wish, unlike communists, the limit is when you begin to use it to enforce economic coercion onto others (consistent with the libertarian view of the limit of rights being when they infringe on others).

          Socialist Libertarians believe in an essentially communist view of what capital does to a society: create a ruling elite caste that controls the means of production and can enforce wage slavery by economic violence onto the masses. The solution is for workers to seize the means of production, just like in communism, but rather than then creating a communist state that centrally plans and coordinates production, which is inevitably vulnerable to Stalinist oligarchy, workers retain control at the local level and different groups of workers form voluntary associations and trade combines that obey the law of supply and demand, which avoids the issue of inevitable inefficiencies in a central planning system that has no way to assign different values to “want to have” versus “must have” goods.

          They also take a libertarian view towards civil liberties (the only moral limit to your rights is when they materially infringe on others).

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        I’m more of a conservative libertarian than a libertarian socialist, but this is very much where I fall as well.

      2. logicbutton*

        I’m also a libertarian socialist and wouldn’t say the same – I think it’s more that I might share an unexpected opinion with an unexpected person, but ultimately that’s not worth much if we have different values underlying that opinion. Also there are definitely plenty of people I probably wouldn’t agree with on anything meaningful at all.

        1. Wintermute*

          That’s a good way to put it. I think a lot of left-leaning people share the fundamentally communist view of what Capital does to a society in terms of economic violence. But a lot of right-leaning people like the idea of free association as a fundamental right, and the superior of localism to central statism, as examples.

          If I focus on those things that we tend to share we can have a nice discussion where they think I’m a fellow traveller, we just don’t get into the other side of things…

    3. Not up for Discussion*

      Thank you for this! I was wondering if I was the only one. And being very quiet, because saying something automatically dumps you lock stock and barrel on an entire side.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Indeed, they do. The very idea that I might agree with them on A and B, but not C, seems to annoy the heck out of people.

  16. sfigato*

    I work in an office/field/area of the country where most people are at least liberalish, and I’m exhausted by the political talk. For me feels like picking at a bleeding scab. Kvetching about the myriad terrible things going on isn’t going to stop them from happening, and is just going to make me miserable and anxious. I’d prefer to be politically involved outside of work, do what I can to make sure that the work of my organization helping/not contributing to the horribleness going on, and not spend time discussing whatever crazy tweet went out this hour. Constantly reacting to the latest outrage doesn’t strike me as healthy or helpful.

    I’m also uncomfortable with how little room there is for any disagreement/variance in opinion from whatever the party line is at the moment. An important part of living in a diverse, heterogenous society is being able to allow room for different beliefs. I understand the tension that some of those beliefs actively harm other people, but I don’t know that creating a false dichotomy that you either agree with me 100% or you are my enemy is what is going to get us through this moment.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      And this is where I recommend the recent podcast from This American Life called “Beer Summit”. Because I’m also worried about the tearing apart, which is also a real danger.

  17. Jh*

    Ugh we have this issue. I work at a university and we have a very conservative lady on our team. She is one of those people who is very protective of her kids even as adults. In general discussions I’ve mentioned some elements of my upbringing and experiences I had growing up in another country. She is quite shocked sometimes by things I recall so I tell her it’s just the way it is where I’m from. I’ve done alright for myself.

    Anyway… We can’t even discuss University plans and news without her hijacking conversations from the other side of the room. She gets really angry when it comes to progressive thoughts and sympathy towards minority groups. Always has to have her say. She also chimes in with her interpretation of stories, that she recalls incorrectly, and we are actually discussing something else entirely!

    Anyway, she feels a bit threatened it seems and is always trying to control conversations in the office. It must be tough working at a university and surrounded by facts she can’t argue against. If you live in a bubble that bubble will burst every day at work in this situation.

    It’s so much worse now than it ever has been. Not sure how this will pan out.

    1. Yup*

      Sounds like my mother-in-law, who was rather Progressive and liberal for the first thirty years that I knew her. She started watching Fox Entertainment after she retired and it’s done a 90-degree shift in her viewpoint.

      She went from a loving and caring person to someone who is so full of hate that her eyes gleam red and she turns red in the face if you even bring up any liberal policy, even policies that benefit her directly.

      My wife and I no longer talk to her because of this. Truly sad.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Getting “really angry” about “sympathy toward minority groups” sounds like she is asking for an HR complaint.

  18. BigRedGum*

    to the person who wants to share the whistle blower stuff at work… PLEASE DON’T. Yes, it’s important, but I am so over hearing about anything at all related to politics, that I’d be tempted to report it as offensive. My office is pretty liberal, which is good for me because I’m super liberal, but we don’t talk politics here. I am over it. I am tired of it. I’m going to vote, so leave me alone. If you do that, then you’ll have to hear from the other side too. If that spills into my work life, I would be furious!

  19. Neon*

    I’m not sure what people hope to accomplish by discussing politics at work, especially with miscellaneous co-workers with whom they don’t have a strong personal relationship.

    The colleagues you’re talking with either agree with your position or they don’t.
    -If they agree with you then they don’t need to be convinced.
    -If they disagree with you, they’re unlikely to be convinced by an unsolicited political conversation with some rando they happen to work with.

    If *you’re* bringing up politics at work, how do you want me to respond if I agree with you? How about if I don’t?

      1. ACDC*

        Our ability to convince others anywhere is slim-to-none. There really isn’t anything good that can come from bringing up controversial topics at work, or in most settings nowadays.

    1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      I disagree with you. I have colleagues who agree with me about many things and disagree about. It’s not all or nothing. The whole point of having a discussion, or a negotiation, is to figure out what you agree on. Sometimes people take offense to what you say because you’re basing it on facts they’re unaware of. Discussion of anything should be respectful and robust. That having been said, if people don’t care to engage at work, then we must all respect that.

      1. Neon*

        How is it valuable to “figure out what I agree on” when it comes to co-worker’s political stance?

        Sometimes people are well aware of the same facts that you are, and still strongly disagree with you due to differing fundamental world views or prior experiences. In this case, you’re unlikely to change their mind in a casual workplace conversation.

        So, again, what’s the point of talking politics at work?

        1. nonymous*

          I usually approach those discussions with a goal of getting insight into how they tick. People aren’t cartoon characters, even if their affect is to froth at the mouth when a particular minority group is mentioned. For example, I recently had a Caucasian supervisor try to bond with a Hispanic new hire (both are PhDs in the same field from the same alma mater) by comparing his family gatherings with her experience conversing with landscapers. Somehow she managed to brag about her fluency in the language as well (she is not fluent).

          Now I could focus on her blinding lack of awareness or issues of classism and bias; this is not likely to change her behavior and a good way to turn me into a ball of unhappiness and anxiety. Or I could take it as evidence of her [lack of] ability to read the audience and build rapport – meaning that for my job to succeed, I definitely need to work around her and verify any interpretation she has of a situation. I can also help my coworker by modeling behavior that she responds positively to so there isn’t as much opportunity for her to stick her foot so far down her throat that her team has to pull it out of their own a!! In the scenario above when it was clear that she just wouldn’t stop talking I asked her about her travel experiences in that part of the world and that was enough to move the topic to the details of all-inclusive resorts.

  20. ellex42*

    I am paid at work to do work. I am not paid to be your BFF. I am not paid to discuss politics, the weather, your family, my family, what you had for lunch yesterday, what I’m having for dinner tonight, or what either of us did on the weekend.

    If you can have pleasant conversations with your coworkers about any of those things and more, while getting your job done, without upsetting or offending anyone, hey, that’s great. Good for you. I’ve managed to do that for the last 20+ years while firmly not discussing politics and shutting down anyone who tries to start that conversation with me. If the current political atmosphere and policies are creating problems for you in your everyday life, I feel for you. And I may be experiencing some of those issues as well, even if I’m not walking around wearing a t-shirt proclaiming that I experience those issues. But I don’t go to work to discuss that, because I’m at work to…work.

    If you view your coworkers and your workplace as a platform at which you can – or should – espouse your political views, unless you’re literally a politician, you need to re-evaluate what you think your job is. If I want to discuss politics, I’ll do it somewhere that’s not work and not with my coworkers. I’m here to do my job and I resent anyone who treats me as a captive audience to their political platform.

    If you go to the dentist, would you be okay with them haranguing you with their personal political views while you’re sitting in the dentist chair with a suction hose in the corner of your mouth? Are you okay with your cashier at the grocery store letting you know why they aren’t voting for a particular person? Why would your own workplace and coworkers be different?

    1. Alice*

      That’s fine — but if I say “Do you like my cute new work-appropriate cartoon mug that my girlfriend gave me?” and you firmly shut that down because having a girlfriend is political, I hope that you do the same for your straight colleagues.

      1. ellex42*

        Legal rights and legislation for LGBTQ+ are a political discussion (unless you are actually part of your company’s legal/executive team and are discussing how to handle legislation/HR/benefits/etc).

        You mentioning your SO, no matter their gender, in passing, is not political unless you do it as a segue into attempting to draw me into a discussion about legal rights and legislation. You having a SO of any gender is not inherently political.

        No more than my mentioning, in passing, that I’m limping because I spent the weekend shoveling gravel in my driveway and I’m thrilled because by ordering recycled concrete, I’m not only benefiting the environment by recycling, but it was cheaper than the quarried limestone gravel…as long as I don’t use it as an attempt to draw you into a discussion about environmental legislation.

        But I will also be thrilled if you don’t corner me into a 10 minute diatribe about how your girlfriend did something that pissed you off last weekend, and similarly I’ll try to refrain from 10 minutes describing my weekend efforts in my garden over the weekend.

        I’ll probably still offer you some fresh blueberries from said garden in July, though, because I regularly get more than I can eat.

      2. Joielle*

        Yep, that’s exactly where this breaks down – some of us have lives that are inherently political. Referring to a same sex partner, a visit to family in Mexico, or a weekend volunteering with refugees shouldn’t be more objectionable than referring to a different-sex partner, a visit to family in Idaho, or a weekend volunteering with an animal shelter, but you can predict which ones will invite political opinions.

        1. Another HR manager*

          I would venture that all of our lives are inherently political – but it just doesn’t look like it for those of us who are discussing our husband of the opposite-sex, our trip to Maine, and walking pups at the shelter. This is all “standard” — and politics have been supporting these types of “standard” relationships and activities for a long time.

        2. Allonge*

          I would say that if that happens, it’s the other person bringing politics into the workplace. If I mention a same-sex partner in the discussion on what we did over the weekend, and someone interprets THAT as a political statement, they are weird at best and most likely worse. I do not need to continue that discussion, any more than I need to react to any strange non-sequitur. I realise there is quite a lot of priviledge involved, but still.

  21. not neurotypical*

    With no disrespect intended, I feel that this advice falls far short of what’s needed at this particular and peculiar moment in U.S. history. Allison has often, and rightly, advised in favor of calling out hate speech and other overt expressions of racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and etc. In normal times, that advice does not conflict with the advice given today. But we’re not living in normal times. We’re living at a time when the President of the United States comes to Minneapolis and talks trash about the members of the Somali community there. At such a time, it may not be morally permissible to simply demur and refuse to “talk politics” after hearing someone praise such a speech.

    And so, my wish would be for Allison to bring her considerable skills and experience to answering two questions for which there is no right answer but about which it might be very useful for her to weigh in: (1) At what point does it become not only permissible but ethically obligatory to name and condemn hate that has been voiced by a politician and therefore could be considered “politics”? (2) How might one do this in a manner likely to provoke reflection rather than defensiveness?

    1. fposte*

      But that’s considering the workplace as a platform, despite the fact that like-minded people are saying they don’t want it to be one. I’ve been turned off of progressive candidates I might otherwise have supported because people on their staff considered themselves more important than other people’s boundaries.

    2. Jamie*

      Obviously not Alison, but if I heard someone at work praising that speech I’d have said I don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss politics at work in a tone that would leave no doubt as to my opinion.

      With a boss I’d go with a stoic “I am not comfortable discussing that in the workplace.”

    3. Jennifer*

      I agree with you. It’s not “talking politics” to call something that’s obviously gross and racist gross and racist. That’s something we all should agree on. It would be better never to bring it up at work at all, but if it is brought up, for someone in management to just say “no politics!” instead of reprimanding the coworker would not make me feel very supported in the workplace.

    4. sfigato*

      Are there things you can do in your role to ensure that your workplace is as inclusive as possible and doing what it can to counter the ignorance and hatred that is spewing from this administration? This political moment has led to some really good work on equity, inclusion, anti-racism, etc., much of which if, done well, isn’t partisan. I think finding ways to live your values in this moment is important, but I am much less convinced that constantly complaining about how horrible t**** is helps much.

    5. epi*

      I agree with you– there is moral and existential urgency to our politics right now. Politeness and personal comfort don’t outweigh our moral obligations to one another. Evil people and ideas have entered our mainstream discourse and they’ll continue to gain acceptance unless they are rejected whenever they are brought up. If that has to happen at work sometimes, so be it.

      But for a lot of people, maybe these topics won’t come up at work unless they bring them up. Most people are not engaged in activism and advocacy 24/7, so it’s reasonable to ask, why now? why at work? before bringing up political topics. Maybe the answer is something like, “Because the people I provide a direct service to won’t come in for fear of being rounded up and put in a concentration camp.” In that case, I would strongly advise you to do whatever you think is necessary to help others, and etiquette be damned. But for many other people, the answer is more like, “I can’t get this off my mind, and I have a captive audience at the office.” It might actually be way more *effective* to do your persuading and organizing somewhere else– and to consider whether the energy of absorbing information and feeling worried and angry about it is taking energy from working to fix it. Many people have a political topic that affects them so personally, they cannot bear to discuss it at work. These people are not your enemies, and the right thing to do is to avoid causing them unnecessary pain.

      Sometimes doing the moral thing requires us to make sacrifices– like breaking the rules or doing something others perceive as rude. People who do have a strong reason to discuss politics at work– and we’re out there– should understand the context in which they choose to do that.

    6. good fences make good neighbors*

      You need to reflect on the fact that there are people who agree with your opinions, who may be so distracted by this type of political talk at work that it makes them unable to do their jobs as effectively as they could otherwise. You don’t want to be the coworker who makes it more difficult for people to do their jobs. You don’t want to make people more miserable than they already are. That is what Allison is saying.

      Personally, I have panic attacks when I have to listen to long political discussions about certain topics, because of the effect the issues may have on my life. At one point during a big political moment I had to leave work early because my supervisors were going into such great detail about political opinions i agreed with, but could not bear to listen to as a captive audience for the rest of the work day.
      I am not alone in this feeling. I have friends in marginalized populations who have struggled to focus on their jobs because the political talk was so distracting.

      Your goal is not to *provoke* your coworkers to feel or reflect on anything. Your goal is to create an environment where people can do their jobs.

  22. Jennifer*

    As the “blue lives matter” post brought out, this isn’t really about politics, it’s about bigotry. The company claimed to just “lean conservative” but the were clearly creating a hostile environment for women and blacks, so much so that most of the black people had been fired and their management team changed from mostly women to all white men. Someone avoiding that conversation by saying they don’t want to talk politics is just a coward and wanting to bury their head in the sand instead of discussing a very real problem that is impacting a lot of people.

  23. GreenDoor*

    I’ve worked in politics (public education and for my local councilman) for nearly 20 years. Political discussion is unavoidable, but since this is our job, we have to rely on the actual statutes and use quality sources for our research and whatnot. Somehow we all manage to share our opinions on the issues of the day without killing each other – likely because politics is literally what we do, but mostly because we’re basing our discussions on actual fact.

    It also helped that no one was shamed for saying “I need a work talk break” or “I have to get away from this nonsense and answer some calls.” Or even teasing eaching other with “Boy, Terry, you’re really fired up about this one!” as a way of getting someone off their soap box.

    1. pancakes*

      Yes to all of this—several times I’ve worked on teams litigating contentious political issues, and even then we aren’t all on the exact same page, but broadly agree as to what sources are relevant, and on the necessity of a break or a bit of distance at times.

    2. Vicky Austin*

      Right, sometimes your actual work requires talking about politics. For instance, if you’re a news reporter, it would be a bad idea to follow Alison’s advice.

      “Reporting live from Washington is reporter John Smith. John, what have you found out about the latest development?”
      “I’m sorry, Bob, I can’t tell you. I refuse to talk politics at work.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Of course it’s different when it’s your actual job. That said, reporters are taught to keep their own political beliefs quiet so they don’t appear biased.

  24. Another HR manager*

    I hear that people are concerned with insulting others, running roughshod over other opinions, are quietly disagreeing with others, and are exhausted by politics. But I think this is a chaotic and critical time in the political life of the United States (and the UK, and ….) — and that politics will be in the workplace. Shutting it down runs as much risk of insulting, running roughshod, etc as engaging. In my view, people need to be prepared to thoughtfully state a political opinion or to thoughtfully state why they don’t want to engage. To me, a thoughtful engagement means stating my own opinion rather than going for persuasion – and keeping my emotions in line with a professional environment. I liken it to advanced training in being professional, professional, professional.

    1. MayLou*

      I don’t want to engage because my job is emotionally taxing enough already and I have a lot of stress in my personal life at the moment and I am worried about the state of my nation’s politics and I feel completely powerless to do anything about it, and the only way I can square all of those circles is by only addressing one of them at a time. Since I’m being paid to answer the phone to women in significant distress about their financial situation, I need to preserve my emotional energy to deal with that instead of spending it on trying to convince my colleagues to agree with me about any of the other stuff.

      1. Another HR manager*

        Do you feel like you have a good script to express your boundary? I am not saying that people are required to talk politics. I am saying that people are going to talk politics, so you need to be prepared. I think it is healthy and important to say — “I do not have the bandwidth for this discussion and I must save my bandwidth for helping these women on the phone. Please do not talk about national politics with me (or take the please out if you like!). ”

        ps: And I err whenever I try to convince anyone – at work in particular. If/when I choose, I can express my opinion in respectful ways – and to people who are interested in hearing it.

    2. Meepmeep*

      Well, I don’t want to engage because I am the primary caregiver for a small child, and the small child in question only gets one chance to be a small child. If Mommy is always angry and upset, and the anger and upset feelings ruin the small human’s childhood, she won’t get a do-over.

      Yes, the US is going the way of the Roman Empire and I expect a horse to be elected to the Senate any moment now, but there is nothing I can do about that. There is something I can do, however, to give my daughter a happy childhood.

      1. bluephone*

        Yes to all of this. Take it from me, parents who make no effort at their own emotional health regulation (and instead foist it onto their children from Day 1) are doing no favors to anyone. It just leads to angry, resentful, miserable adults (and god help us if they then have kids who are expected to shoulder all the emotional labor).

  25. MagsMama*

    Here’s an interesting one: I work in hospitality, in the city that will be hosting the 2020 National Convention of one of the two major political parties. I actually lean to the side of the party that we will be hosting… but many of my coworkers do not. It’s an interesting situation, with most of our paychecks literally hanging on the fact that we secured this event and that we host it successfully next year – but meanwhile, many of my colleagues are feeling guilty hoping that the opposing party will ultimately win the election.

    1. pancakes*

      Why guilt, though? The conventions happen in advance of the election, and happen regardless of whether the party’s chosen candidate is popular / has a real shot at winning or not. All such conventions tend to bring demonstrators from the other side to town, too.

  26. Paralegal Part Deux*

    I get so sick of politics at the office. I don’t care who you voted for or why. I just want to do my job to the best of my ability and go home. I get inundated with politics enough from friends and family who will not abide by my “no politics” rule no matter how often I remind them of it.

    1. Another HR manager*

      Just a read for you on your comment: saying “I don’t care who you voted for or why” is dismissive. Its likely you do feel that way but if that is your main message, I can see why you might not be getting more compliance. If someone said that to me (at work or home or from a friend), I would feel insulted — and feel that you made your own political statement — maybe without realizing it — but are telling me to not voice mine.

      Better could be “I know that who you voted for is very important to you – I hear that. But I need to disengage from political talk. I get too much at home already (or with friends – insert whatever other environment).” If I don’t stop, you can say “I mean it – talk sports, talk weather, talk dogs … but I need you to not talk politics with me.”

      1. CMart*

        I’m not Paralegal Part Deux – but I do think “I don’t care about who you voted for or why” is just an easy shorthand for a lot of people. It is for me.

        Because I do care, very much, who people are voting for and perhaps care even more about why they made that choice. I care as a person and a citizen and an advocate for the causes and policies I care about.

        But I don’t want to know who my colleagues voted for or why. It would complicate my working relationship with them if I found their choices to be antithetical to my own sense of ethics. But I need my job – I like my job too, actually – and I would prefer it if we all just talked about our dogs, the poorly planned weddings we went to over the weekend, and this month’s inventory valuation impacts. It gives me the plausible deniability to continue liking them as coworkers and having a pleasant, productive working relationship with them.

        So, no. I don’t care to know who they voted for or why. Not my coworkers. Not at work.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, “I don’t care who you voted for or why” says to me “I view this all as an intellectual exercise or a game, not something important about real people’s lives” and my opinion of someone who says that will drop accordingly.

        1. 42 towels*

          I don’t want to know who my coworkers voted for previously because I do care so much. I know that I would think much less of them, and that may come out in my treatment of them, and I don’t want to risk that.

          I call my Congressfolk, write my letters, donate my money, and work with a non- profit or 2 on my own time; it’s not like I don’t know or don’t care about what’s going on in the world today.

          Also, no one really wants to hear the 10 to 30 minute diatribes I could summon if we were taking about hot political issues.

    2. pancakes*

      I’m broadly sympathetic to people who don’t want to talk about politics at work, and would say that for most workplaces that’s probably ideal. I don’t think it’s quite fair or reasonable to project one’s fatigue with friends and family on coworkers, though. It isn’t your coworkers’ fault that people in your personal life try to pick fights about politics with you, nor that you can’t or won’t stop spending time with them anyhow.

  27. Quinalla*

    I try to only discuss politics neutrally when it directly affects my job (designing for the construction industry – so energy policies on buildings/building equipment directly affect us as well as the types of financing/tax breaks/etc. available for developers), not in a this is good/bad, but here are the facts whether we agree or disagree with the people making the rules, this is how it affects us. I also remind and encourage people to vote – and remind that we can vote by mail here if you can’t/don’t want to go vote in person.

    I try and leave it at that and I approach diversity, inclusion, and other issues that some see as political from the standpoint of the law and business advantages as honestly, that is the best way to get support for those things.

  28. Master Bean Counter*

    Oh my word this is a timely reminder.
    When politics may affect our ability to operate on a daily basis, it’s a daily conversation. It was a rough couple of weeks around here when they threatened to shut the border down. This would have meant that 50% of our workforce would either not be able to come to work or not be able to go back home at night, depending on the timing of the shut down.
    This next election season is gearing up to be UGLY. Thank goodness I work around rational people.

    1. banzo_bean*

      Yeah my own personal experience in the bean counting industry is that shifting tax laws/policies mean that politics always will play a certain role in your general office discussions. For some people it’s easy to seperate the “wow- the tax cuts and jobs act is making me nervous for tax season 2018” vs “I hate this administration -insert hot take here-“, but for others the fact that you have to discuss a certain amount of political going ons in the workplace means that no topic or rant is off limits. I always just grimace and walk away. They can wonder if I’m equally horrified at the injustice they’ve brought to my attention or horrified with them.

      1. CMart*

        I’m a corporate bean counter in manufacturing, so we had a lot of meetings about tariffs. Every time I emerged from one where the most partisan thing that was said was “this uncertainty is madness, can someone please just start a trade war or not and be done with it so we can stop working overtime?” I was happy.

        1. banzo_bean*

          Yeah, there’s a normal amount of “ugh the state of current affairs is making work harder/more unpredictable/ stressful/ etc” and I think that’s good productive water cooler talk- but the opposite is too much. If it were to come up everytime politics came in to play in my office we’d never get anything done.

  29. ACDC*

    I had 2 coworkers that I shared an office with who would turn any comment into a political discussion. For example, one time I mentioned that I was excited to get this new board game in the mail that I had ordered from Amazon. Coworkers proceeded to go on a rant about capitalism as a whole and how the government is failing us by allowing companies like Amazon to exist. I requested to be moved to a new office after sharing with them for 3-4 months and I was so unbelievably relieved when I moved to the new office.

    1. ellex42*

      A coworker asked me the other day about the ebook I was reading (it was funny and I kept laughing). I told them a little about it and mentioned that I borrowed it from the local public library. I was then treated to a rant about how it was wrong that the local public library lends out ebooks through Amazon’s platform, and they were sure that Amazon was doing something nefarious with our library cards and borrowing history (what, exactly, was unclear), and the government should do something about it because Amazon has its claws in every aspect of our lives and capitalism and monopolies and kickbacks and lobbying and…and…and…

      An attempt to explain the prohibitive costs of data storage and bandwidth for libraries was useless.

  30. OG Orange You Glad*

    Ugh, my boss is the person in my office always trying to push his political ideas on everyone else. He also gets very vocal criticizing our local politics (in a city where our company is located but my boss and most coworkers do not live – I do live in the city and am very involved in our local politics). It drives me up a wall because he’s says things that directly insult myself and other coworkers but everyone else takes the high road and doesn’t engage with him. I’ve told him privately my situation and stances on a few major things, mainly as a way to say look we will never agree on these things so please knock it off. Instead he doubles down on those topics that he knows I find personally offensive. He’s otherwise a good boss but oh man, when I’m stuck in a car with him for 2.5 hours on a business trip and can’t escape his bs, it’s demoralizing.

    1. banzo_bean*

      Not to mention the fact that a power inquity means that no matter what you’re saying, whether I agree with it or not, if it’s politics I don’t want to get into it. Many bosses think “oh but I’m the cool boss who has the same opinions as my supervisees.” No! Not true, and forcing me to listen to them knowing that if I objected, I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying so is a total abuse of power.

  31. What the What*

    Ugh, I am dealing with this right now at work. Everyone pretty much knows where this coworker stands politically. From a social issues perspective, he espouses tolerance and love—something we can all get behind and agree on. But he can’t seem to walk the talk. He is generally not openly hostile about his politics/worldview but does and says passive aggressive/hostile things behind the backs of coworkers, bosses, customers and now a job applicant(!) if he even THINKS you might differ politically from him. We have a highly qualified applicant we’ve interviewed. The applicant’s social media accounts contain differing political views (different from mine and from my coworker). Coworker is vehemently insisting that these differing views “disqualify” the candidate. (They do not; my only discomfort—albeit a personal one— is that the candidate has chosen to put his political views out there). I find it fundamentally unfair to the applicant (political discrimination is not illegal in my state) that my coworker is doing everything in his power to derail this candidacy. I’m also a target of this coworker. Funny thing is, he has no clue what my politics are because my views are off limits to others. I think it stems from the fact that he didn’t think I should’ve been hired (he’s had nothing to do with my hiring and is not my supervisor). No one is immune to his snake in the grass wrath: bosses, co-workers and customers are fair game in his eyes if he thinks they might have different politics or stances on social issues. I hate working with him because his has done and said some things that I find to be untrustworthy. He nitpicks my work and has no business proofing my work (which is high quality and professional).

    Any suggestions/encouragement on how to deal with this snake? Right now, I try not to engage him, maintain my professional composure in front of him and keep him at arm length.

    1. Another HR manager*

      Sounds like the problem is not simply politics but the fact that he is undermining of work processes in a variety of ways. Can HR clarify that someone’s political views are not a qualifying or disqualifying factor? Are you able to speak with his supervisor about the nitpicking of your work and hostile comments about other staffers?

      1. What the What*

        I agree and think it’s a trust and character issue, too. We don’t have an HR department as we are a very small non profit organization that in no way deals with politics, social services, etc. The hiring manager is aware of what’s happening with the coworker’s personally held views influencing his perception of the candidate. I’ve talked to my manager about the nitpicking of my work and about the coworker trying to undermine and sow dissension re business and staffing decisions my boss has made. His stance is for me to ignore it and understand that what’s happening is a reflection of my coworker’s character, not of my performance. My manager lets a lot roll of his shoulders (whereas as I don’t). The incidences are somewhat frequent, petty and annoying enough to make me feel “watched”. It comes across like he’s waiting to pounce on my work at all times. I do agree with my boss that not engaging with this person is the best course of action for now. I do hate feeling watchful, picked at and in CYA mode at all times at work.

        1. Another HR manager*

          Ignoring is fine and learning to let some things roll off your back is not a bad skill to pick up. But you also might want to keep a log of particular incidents (though not every annoying moment). It may give you a clearer read on how often and how much he is impacting (or not – just annoying) and it will give you specifics if you need to bring this to your manager again. Good luck —

    2. Me_05*

      Ugh! I don’t have advice, just sympathy. My boss is hyper political, but it doesn’t always fall along party lines, so it’s impossible to guess his reaction to anything.

      But he loves to ask people where they stand. He didn’t outright ask if I voted for Trump, but the conversation was so pointed I felt like I had to let him know I didn’t so he wouldn’t secretly hate me!

  32. Princesa Zelda*

    I’m wondering if anyone has a good script for getting away from it when your coworkers know that you’re studying Political Science in school. I’m a senior and sick to death of people constantly wanting my opinion about 45 and policy x and gaffe y. I don’t know! I’m not at work to do an essay for you on the spot! I study international relations with a historical focus, not *waves hands* this. I’ve tried to laugh it off like “haha am I being graded” but it hasn’t sunk in with some coworkers. “Oh, I’m too busy to follow the news” worked a little, but now one of them just asks if I’ve heard about XYZ and then launches straight in. I don’t want to make a Thing of it or hurt anyone’s feelings, I actually agree with them basically, but I’m so. tired.

    1. Another HR manager*

      More direct might be helpful. “I hate to interrupt but can I ask that you not talk politics with me? School has me maxed out on politics. I’m sure you can understand that! And the office is only break I get. Did you see the game this weekend …. or a movie …. or what you are binge watching (you might not be binge watching anything if you are a senior! But basically, you are changing the subject). Hope that helps.

      1. MayLou*

        I really like Captain Awkward’s script for this – I think it’s meant as a fill-in-the-blank but it could work well verbatim in some contexts. “I’m maxed out on politics, I’m sure you can understand that, but how about that Massive Subject Change?”

        1. Princesa Zelda*

          Oooh, I never thought of literally just saying Massive Subject Change! I can never think of one on the spot but just saying it will probably work really well if I can get the tone right.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I think I’d try to use school as a prop. “Oh, that’s school stuff and I get enough of it in school! Can we talk about literally anything else, please?” Steer it away from being about agreement or not — just the point that you’re maxed out.

    3. banzo_bean*

      You put a great script in your question:

      I don’t know! I’m not at work to do an essay for you on the spot! I study international relations with a historical focus, not *waves hands* this.

      I would just say that and then maybe follow it up with something like “But I’d love your opinion on the The XYZ Affair of the 18th century. Shocking stuff!”

    4. Jellyfish*

      It’s okay to say so directly. I’m in kinda the opposite position, but it still requires similar scripts. The nature of my job requires me to be very up to date on what’s happening on a national level. There are also some causes that I actively support.

      This leads people in my personal life to want my opinions or want to debate.* Nope! I tell them I do enough politicking already, and my brain needs to focus on anything else. You could adjust that to focus on work. Most of the time, people abide by that. A select few keep trying to push, and I literally ignore them. I’ve made my position clear, and they need to respect my boundaries. On rare occasion, I need to verbally reiterate that with family members, but I hope your coworkers aren’t so pushy!

      *If I knew they’re asking in good faith or I’m feeling up to, I’ll answer some people. I’m selective about it though because it’s my right to lay my own boundaries.

    5. Wintermute*

      As a fellow polisci grad, take refuge in antiquarianism: “Modern politics is really complicated but a lot of it is really more a matter of marketing and branding than actual political philosophy, and most modern politicians don’t actually follow a philosophically consistent worldview as opposed to pragmatic horse-trading and influence brokering. I’ve learned all different kinds of political frameworks that could be applied…” and if they press you you can get abstract “well classical liberals would say X, but Marxists would say Y, and Realpolitik would say Z and I think they all have an interesting take on the situation…” If they really want to press you hopefully some point between Hobbes and Locke they get bored and wander off.

      1. pancakes*

        That’s not an accurate view of history, though. Influence brokering is not a recent development. The idea of kingmakers goes way, way back and the phrase itself was coined in the 15th century. There was never a mythical time when leaders were invariably philosophically consistent, either.

    6. cncx*

      it doesn’t change when you graduate, i’m twenty years out from my international relations degree and people want me to cosign their latest boneheaded theory. i stick to the standard scripts about how i don’t want to talk about it at work, but if someone is really being a jerk i have been known to say something like “oh but you didn’t read [insert academic here], they discuss that in detail in their classic work on the subject from 1972” and then they don’t know what to say and drop it.

    7. Allonge*

      I have had some success in a similar position by overstating how much we really did not learn about the practical daily ongoing stuff, as opposed to theory, history and overarching issues. Quite a lot of people liked it when I said, well, yes, I go to school for x but really you are much more likely to know about the specific situation y than me, as you are much closer to it. Flattery wins. And this is a neat segue into how schools never prepare people for Real Life TM, a favorite rant for many.

  33. Mel_05*

    Thanks for writing about this! For most of my career I worked in an area where most people are religiously apolitical. I didn’t really think about how easy thay made it to not talk politics at work.

    But at my last and present job people LOVE to talk politics and about all the divisive topics. It’s hard not to feel trapped l, because if I say I don’t want to talk about it people assume I’m against them or that I’m apathetic and need to be convinced.

    And I’m not saying neither is ever true (it’s a diverse area!) But work is not the place!

  34. banzo_bean*

    I feel like the biggest frustration about this issue for me is that I can’t choose to avoid my coworkers, everyone else in my life- family, friends, trader joe’s cashiers, I can NOT talk to them if they start to annoy/offend me with political opinions.
    I can’t avoid my co-workers because I need to work with them. So if you have certain views, I need you to keep that to yourself, because if it offends/annoys/bores me it’s going to distract me from my work and make our relationship less effective.
    And of course there are caviots to this and exceptions, but I agree with Alison, most need to start approaching this subject with more attention to when they’re crossing boundaries and making others uncomfortable.

  35. EvilQueenRegina*

    It has been a relief for me that one of my coworkers was off sick for about a year and then resigned, purely because of this issue – let’s just say that I am in the UK, and we are on opposing sides of the issue of The B Word. She’s been sharing lots of Nigel Farage stuff on Facebook which I usually just grit my teeth and ignore – but that’s easier to do on social media. If we were working side by side I know full well she’d be ramming Farage down my throat and I would be gritting my teeth.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      OldJob discussed politics in good way – we would have friendly competitions up on whiteboard (like May’s deal, yes or know and by how many, or in 2014 indyref result – %result and turnout). But it was always respectful, and we had a wide range of political views… but… we were also of one mind on the B word. Virtually whole company was – we had a lot of eu employees. I don’t know how it would have played out if there had been opposing view on that – we probably wouldn’t have spoken so much on it. Strong socialists, lifelong tories and an snp person debating election – no problem. Leave/remain … so, anyone see the rugby?

      1. Wintermute*

        It’s dangerous to assume no one was on the other side– at least across the pond here what often happens is a few strident people make it clear they WILL think less of you if you reveal your affiliations and as a result they just don’t express their views or even express contrary views to the ones they deeply hold because they sense that they will get a hostile reception any other way.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Can understand that, but really was not the case in that place. We had lifelong tories and people who had voted communist in past (and not shifted basic views that much), couple of LDs, one of whom had held local political office, 2 Scots in 2014, one yes & one no, people who thought a certain person would be best PM since Attlee and those who thought they were a dangerous joke… there was never an issue with differing views; we had one contrary bugger who would argue the opposite of almost anything, but was all respectful.

          After the result we were all in shock and fearful and grieving. It was a comfort at that time.

          It’s also not a normal political thing; company didn’t state their views expicitly, but made it very plain that they were standing by to do whatever they could to help our colleagues who were from EU – this wasn’t your normal political event.

  36. Andream*

    This makes me so glad I left my old job. There was a guy I worked with. We were on the same level but different departments. All he would ever talk about was sports and politics. He was a great guy but couldn’t shut up or get a hintm. You would try to redirect conversations and he would just keep plowing on. Once I even had headphones on and he came over to me and started talking to me. And they weren’t little air pods or ear buds they were big noise canceling headphones so it’s not like he didn’t see them.
    In my new job everyone is very considerate. And i have my own office so I can always walk in there and shut the door for lunch.

  37. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Ha! We (Canadians) are having an election today and most of the talk was about finding parking at the polling stations.

  38. ssnc*

    I agree with earlier comments about politics not being an abstract matter for many people. I think there’s an important distinction between bringing up things that don’t have much bearing on the day to day in order to prompt discussion, and having real conversations about things that affect workplace operations and/or personal lives.

    I left an old office in tears on multiple occasions because of my boss and coworker who were very much on the opposite side of the political spectrum than I was and who would constantly bring up politics, politicians, and current events, regardless of context. For example, we were talking to a guy from an architectural firm that had done work on a building with a certain politician’s name displayed prominently on it. My boss jumped in with “I like that person, I think he’s great at what he’s doing” etc., etc. He’d also regularly use Twitter to promote policies that directly and negatively affected many of our clients (we weren’t a government office and he was the owner also) that also had nothing to do with our particular business.

    A boss at a different office actually called my cube once to laugh about a racist thing that politician had said, was shocked I didn’t find it funny, asked a question that I didn’t know the answer to about a senator from a state I was in once 15 years ago, and then told me angrily that I didn’t appreciate the most colorful person with the biggest personality who has held that office in a long time.

    Of course, this also highlights what Allison’s said before about downfalls in working for extremely small companies with limited oversight.

    This is very different from the times we discussed how a lack of final regulations would actively hurt businesses in our industry, drafted letters to politicians in support of industry changes, etc. It’s also different from when I asked a coworker who he was rooting for in the Super Bowl and he said calmly but firmly that he stopped following the NFL that year, or saying that you don’t want to eat at a specific fast-food restaurant or shopping at a particular store.

    1. cncx*

      i completely agree with you. sometimes it’s tone deaf to say “let’s agree to disagree” when so many things aren’t abstract any more. you hit the nail on the head with “real conversations about things that affect workplace operations and/ or personal lives.” I get really frustrated when people just want me to cosign their politics when it isn’t something that is going to make work better (and it usually makes it worse). This is really different from, like you said, something that involves clients or legislation.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Day after Brexit, about 30% of my office were scared and didn’t know if they would be deported or not as a result. Some things aren’t theoretical.

  39. cncx*

    what has helped me is understanding that most people who want to talk politics in the office aren’t looking for a conversation, they’re looking for an audience.

  40. Not a Blossom*

    I work in a small office and we are all on the same end of the political spectrum. I agree with people when I hear them talking politics, but that still doesn’t mean I want to hear it. Our current political situation is exhausting, and I prefer to only engage when I have prepared. I need to not think about it every second of every day.

  41. Jennifer Thneed*

    Just like taking LW’s at their words, let’s take each other at our words. Elena, part of the answer is in your question: DOES the person have vacation days to take? Or sick days? Lots of folks don’t. Even in white-collar jobs.

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