Sponsored by Oregon Business

Office policy: Keep politics in its place

| Print |  Email
Archives - September 2008
Monday, September 01, 2008

As the nation enters the boxing ring of presidential campaigning this fall, it’s not unusual for the jabs of political convictions to enter the workplace, too.

Casual political discussions among coworkers can become heated and, in the worst cases, can lead to full-blown turmoil in the workplace. Imagine the conflicting loyalties that can develop if bosses explicitly support a candidate or a political issue that others don’t.

Talking politics “is inappropriate unless you are at campaign headquarters,” says Mindy Lockard, an etiquette consultant based in Eugene. In the proper world of social graces, politics, sex and religion are topics that generally should not be brought up in a business environment, she says.

But that world may be long gone. According to a 2007 survey by Vault, an online career information company, 66% of respondents said their co-workers talk politics, while 46% said they witnessed an argument as a result.

Of course, nobody wants to take away your right to wear a poor-fitting Obama or McCain T-shirt this November. But for supervisors and human resource managers, it may mean carefully pulling the plug on a debate without being perceived as stifling opinion.

And that’s where companies need to be clearer, communication experts say. It’s the undefined gray (not red or blue) area of being too strict or too informal toward friendly political debates that can lead to trouble, says Robert Benjamin, a Portland-based mediation and conflict consultant. “In our culture we have strong feelings on standing on principle,” he says.

After all, Benjamin says, a little debate in the workplace stimulates creativity and competition. But the worst action a business can take is circulating a memo or stuffing a new rule into the employee handbook prohibiting such discussions. “It only pisses people off,” he says, and lets workers avoid taking responsibility for their social skills.

To avoid a political office brawl, Lockard suggests supervisors be more proactive by setting an example and talking with employees individually about proper discussions on the job. “There is no hard and fast rule,” she says. In a dire situation, Benjamin says a business should hire a communication expert.

To her dismay, Lockard says the business environment is becoming too casual. “You have to remember what you are there for,” she says — work,  not politics.  


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


More Articles

Rail revival

Linda Baker
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
111115-OregonShortLineRailCarTHUMBBY LINDA BAKER

“What we’ve seen traditionally over the past few decades is a reduction of short line railroads. This is a rare opportunity to see a line being opened.”


Tinker, Tailor, Portland Maker

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The artisan generation redefines manufacturing.


Photo Log: Inside Portland Razor Co.

The Latest
Wednesday, October 14, 2015

2-sheets-IMG 4897


Reader Input: In or Out

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The refugee crisis has put immigration and border issues on the front burner, in Europe and at home. In Oregon, attitudes toward illegal immigration haven’t changed dramatically since 2006.


100 Best Nonprofits announced

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

1015-nonprofits01Oregon Business magazine has named the seventh annual 100 Best Nonprofits to Work for in Oregon. The rankings were revealed Wednesday night during an awards dinner at the Sentinel Hotel in Portland.


Let it Rain

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

This year has been so dry we were caught napping when it finally started to sprinkle. Hopefully you didn’t get caught in a downpour while eagerly awaiting — don’t deny it — our curation of Oregon-grown wet weather wear.


Where Do We Go from Here?

Guest Blog
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
102115-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

Volatility reigned supreme over the summer. The old Wall Street adage of, “Sell in May and go away,” was prophetic in 2015.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02