Monday, June 26, 2006

Political Discussions in the Workplace

It is not surprising that you can find differing guidelines regarding political discussions in the workplace. So much of the wisdom gets back to that classic consultant's line: It depends.

It depends upon:

  • The nature of the workplace. Is your organization supposed to be nonpolitical such as a City Clerk's office? How would customers feel it they overheard the discussion?
  • Timing. Are emotions running too high for a calm discussion?
  • How well the participants know one another. Relative strangers may be more inclined to ascribe bad faith to each other.
  • Whether both sides are committed to maintaining a positive relationship. This commitment will strengthen civility.
  • Whether the participants are genuinely willing to consider other perspectives. Are they more interested in clarity than in being right?
  • Whether the participants can agree to disagree. Can they hear each other out without harming the team or their relationship?
  • How often the discussions occur. The more frequent the discussion, the greater the potential for harm.
  • Whether the participants can discuss matters in a polite manner in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

If those items are not present, the team may be stronger if its members save political discussions for their private lives.

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