Pro-Romney or Pro-Obama, one thing we can all agree on: Talking politics in the office never ends well.
You can wind up with anything from hurt feelings to a full-blown HR complaint. Not to mention the torpedo to productivity.
With a race as tight as the presidential one this year – and the issues surrounding it, from the economy to the repeal of Roe V. Wade – you can bet folks are fired up, even if they normally don’t pay too much attention to politics.
Hopefully by now your company has made its stance clear that politics as well as political buttons, signs, etc., on cubicles are not acceptable. But it’s tougher to meter what staffers say. A statement as simple as “who saw the debate last night?” can ignite a full-blown debate of your own in-house.
And you may well end up in the role of moderator.
Here are two proven — and subtle — strategies to help keep tempers and political chatter to a minimum in these last few weeks leading up to November 6. It’s worth passing to all your finance supervisors to make sure they’re doing all they can to keep the situation under control.
Strategy #1: Divert the conversation
Rather than simply telling staffers they have to kill the conversation, try taking a detail from what folks are talking about and steer the conversation down another less controversial path. So if folks start talking about Mitt Romney’s now-infamous binder comment, you might go a few ways:
- “Binders – who remembers those Trapper Keepers in the 70s and 80s? I loved mine. Who had what color?” or
- “That reminds me we need to place an order with our office supply dealer. What do we need to stock up on in Finance?”
You or other supervisors are taking something from the conversation so it doesn’t sound like a comment came from nowhere, but you are making it crystal clear you don’t want to continue the same line of discussion.
Strategy #2: Bust out the compliments
Flattery will get you everywhere – and away from the taboo topic.
When a conversation is veering into unwelcome territory, try complimenting one of the employees involved. Remark about how they know so much about a specific topic: Were they a political science minor in college? Do they volunteer?
People tend to listen more closely when a topic includes praise. So you will likely get staffers to focus on that instead of the inflammatory subject.
Do you have another technique that works to get people away from political talk or other taboo topics in the office? Share them here.