Politics Vs The Watercooler – Political Protocol For the Workplace

On the stage in political theatre, we as a nation have been spectators and participants of the greatest, most suspenseful and dramatic miniseries -The Presidential Election of 2008. No wonder this has been our country’s current recreation. Do you recall the old adage that politics is the only game for adults?

The players/candidates must be willing do all that can be done to win or they should not be in the public life. Victory is decreed by demonizing your opponents by exchanging vitriol verbal blows. We as the spectators/voters thrive on a culture of a dog-eat-dog mentality. Thus, the metaphor of the theatre sets the stage for “Blood Sports.”

There is no need to ponder why debates spill from the family living room, the university classrooms, and other social and religious venues directly into the workplace.

According to a study by Office Team in Medo, California, while once a refuge of a no politics and no religious zone, the workplace has triggered a maelstrom of political debate at the office water-cooler.

The rules of this “blood sport” rely on human nature. The sides we align ourselves in this arena are based on our values. Consequently, our values emotionally define our decisions. If we impose our convictions on others while negating their feelings, it sets forth a dynamite charge of threatening emotions.

Instinctually, the fight or flight response is elicited. While this is a life-saving mechanism, it can also churn dire consequences when produced in a work environment.

Civility expert P.M. Forni, Director of the Civility Initiative at John Hopkins University, found that it is up to employees to handle these concerns at the cubicle level. Most managers will not legislate good manners or dampen debates. Therefore, the employee must use caution in debating and respecting the opinions of their co-workers.