Workplace Etiquette – Should You Debate the Debate?

It’s 5:30 a.m., and your alarm clock loudly sounds, sending a jolting shrill that interrupts your peaceful slumber. You take your anger out on the snooze button three times until you finally convince yourself to roll out of bed. After battling with rush hour traffic, you grab a cup of coffee, arrive at your workplace, and slip into your workspace with seven minutes to spare. As you mentally prepare to attack your daily duties, you overhear coworkers discussing this week’s Presidential Debate. Just as you think your presence has gone unnoticed, one of your coworkers asks you to join in the conversation and debate the debate. He invasively asks, “Who are you voting for?”

Immediately you realize that no matter which candidate’s name you provide as an answer to his pointed question, you will be forced to engage in a conversation that could cause tension throughout the workplace. So what do you do?

Follow the lead of the politicians. Now, we don’t suggest that you talk in circles until your coworker is so confused he can’t remember the question he asked in the first place. Instead, we suggest you eloquently answer in a pragmatic fashion.

Wrong Answer:  “I’m voting for Abraham Lincoln; Republicans rock!”

Right Answer:  “I’m making my candidate choice carefully, and I’m weighing all the issues. The democratic process is important, and we should all vote!”

Remember, at work we want to satisfy our daily tasks and build strong relationships with coworkers and clients. Delving too deeply into the subject of politics may cause unwanted awkwardness or may even birth negative feelings toward your stellar reputation, which you’ve spent so much time building. Moreover, engaging in such conversations may lead senior managers to assume that you are off task.

Don’t jeopardize your next request for a future raise, promotion, or bonus by engaging in unnecessary political debates. Play it safe. Stay general when asked to tackle tough political questions.