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Politics at Work

Savvy business people pride themselves on keeping up with current events, politics, and even newsmaker gossip so they always have interesting tidbits to contribute to small talk at meetings, parties and social outings. Idle chit-chat is awfully valuable in building professional relationships because it allows people to connect on a relaxed, personal level.

But that same small talk can backfire when it’s highly opinionated and offensive to others. While there’s little harm in sharing your pick for the Super Bowl or World Series, there’s surely the potential for sparks when siding with political candidates in the workplace.

During an informal meeting with coworkers, an associate told a story about his young daughter asking about the difference between a Democrat and a Republican. His response: “Democrats care about people and Republicans don’t.”

That not-so-PC reply wouldn’t have been a big deal at home, but in the workplace it earned him the cold shoulder of colleagues who strongly disagreed with his assessment of the two parties. A couple months later, he was passed over for promotion. To this day, he believes that his big mouth cost him the opportunity for advancement.

Usually there’s a comfortable middle ground that allows you to react to the latest political news without crossing into dangerous territory. Hillary Clinton’s infamous show of emotion during the New Hampshire primary resulted in mixed opinions among cube mates nationwide and sparked a healthy debate about whether or not it’s ever acceptable for women to cry in the workplace.

While defending or attacking Senator Clinton’s political views could offend coworkers, a discussion around crying isn’t likely to be as heated. As the mudslinging on the campaign trail grows more intense through the November election, it’s best to refrain from exposing your biases in the office unless you’re sure that voicing your beliefs will not alienate anyone.

Just because you know a colleague is like-minded in business—or even in music, movies and snacks—doesn’t mean that you share similar political views. It’s acceptable to educate and inform, so long as you’re not attempting to unfairly impose. At work it’s better to be quiet than to offend, so be an outspoken advocate for what matters to you on your own time.