Don't let election time be a stumbling block when building business relationships!
As the clock ticks down to the 2012 election, we can be certain of two things: 1) people in every setting will want to talk politics, and 2) not everyone will agree. The candidates' debates can lead to everything from angry FB exchanges (with-gasp!-unfriending), to out-and-out war in the workplace. How can you avoid the potential political minefield in your office and maintain a more perfect union with your co-workers? Here are a few tips for building business relationships this time of year:
1) Your parents were right: Polite conversation does not include discussion of politics, religion, or anything racy. This especially holds true at the office. Bear in mind that political discourse often crosses over into those other two topics as well. So, think about it this way- would you ask a co-worker why they belonged to a particular religious group? Asking someone where they align themselves politically is the same sort of question. Obviously, your co-workers are often your friends, and chances are at some point the topic will arise. However, try to save the discussion for after work or non-work friends.
2) Agree to disagree: Political discussions are often the most heated discourse there is. People tend to be extremely passionate about their political beliefs. Drawn into a debate that turns ugly? Rather than discounting someone’s opinions (which can lead to rude name calling or worse), diffuse the situation by agreeing to disagree. Try saying to your colleague: “It seems like this is a touchy topic for us to discuss. I appreciate that you feel strongly about your opinions- I feel strongly about mine as well. I think we should agree to disagree and take this topic off the table.” Arguing at work and creating a hostile environment will never change someone’s political views. Instead of perpetuating the anger, put that energy into donating to your party of choice or volunteering for your chosen candidate.
3) It’s a free country: One of the greatest things about our democracy is our right to free speech. Lots of people choose to put their beliefs on display with bumper stickers, t-shirts, or other paraphernalia. Obviously, no one can stop you from showing your subtle support. (Incidentally, it should go without saying that anything that can be misconstrued as offensive has NO PLACE in the office.) However, realize that the moment you open the door by voicing a political opinion in the workplace, you have invited any discussion that may arise from it. Be prepared for what may follow if you choose to visually show your support at work.
Building business relationships around election time doesn't have to be tricky. And there's one thing everyone can agree on- we all need to vote, vote, vote! Make sure you’re all registered and ready to go before you head to the polls at canivote.org.