Profitt Report: Talking politics in the workplace

Feel like politics is all anyone can talk about since the presidential election? You’re not alone: surveys show the contentious nature of today’s political climate is a distraction in offices across the U.S.

The Society for Human Resource Management shows more than half of organizations say this election caused greater political volatility than in previous election years. In addition, Better Works, a performance management tech company, commissioned a survey to see what’s happening to our productivity at work. They find more than 70 percent of people have discussed politics with their colleagues and half of those people say the conversation turned into an argument at work.

“Anybody who says they were going to predict the outcome of this election is a liar,” said Dr. Bill Livingston, HR Chair at Baker College Center for Graduate Studies in Flint, “he (President Donald Trump) absolutely swallowed up every inch of air during the primaries and during the whole campaign and he swallows up every inch of air now.”

So: what can we do if a discussion turns into an argument?

“Don’t take stuff personally, listen, I really respect your opinion and then don't engage,” Livingston said.

For supervisors, he said it’s wise to tread lightly.

“You can't keep people from talking, nor should you, but if they start not doing their job then you go back to their job definition, what is it they're not doing,” Livingston said.

He says the best way to deal with political talk is to look at their duties and determine, are they still getting everything done? Is the work flow truly being interrupted?

“If they're doing their job and they say stuff you don't like, I don't care about that. You always have to stay with the job definition, then you don't get caught up in all the personal stuff,” Livingston said.

While employees will talk, he advises supervisors to keep it quiet.

“That could be very intimidating, because not only am I your manager, I’m also the person who writes your evaluation and I’m also the person who determines your compensation,” he said.

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