I've tried searching around on the site for this, but because "politics" can mean inner-workplace politics and not strictly national politics, the search has been difficult.

I have a new boss who recently started gathering all the engineers together for a kind of informal hangout time on Wednesdays. We each discuss work goals, but then it opens up into chill/fun time. In the first meeting, the new boss has voiced some extremely divisive political ideas about race, gender, crime, etc. It is obvious that his self flagellation is meant to make him appear more virtuous and humble...but it is offensive on a number of levels to myself and another team member.

Due to the geographical location of my job, there is a very strong political orthodoxy and at least half the team agreed with him and continued the discussion in the direction it was started. I know that I cannot legally be fired for my differing political opinions, but I do suspect that voicing these opinions could result in some negative consequences in terms of review, salary, promotion, etc. I would prefer to just not bring these kinds of issues into our discussions at work.

Because I have been with the company for a few years now, I suspect that I could talk to either HR or with the new boss directly to ask that we avoid talking about political issues involving race, gender, etc. However, after seeing what happened to James Damore, I am very worried about being fired (I have a child to support) for my lack of adherence to the local political culture. Unfortunately, this scenario doesn't allow me to "tune out" or "skip" the meeting because it is mandatory and does start on a work-related note.

Is there any safe way to ask that we no longer discuss politics in scheduled meetings?

*Note: The reason I did not quote any statements from my new boss is because I do not want to invoke anyone's own bias, I just want to preserve civility and de-politicize the meetings if possible.

  • 5
    ' I know that I cannot legally be fired for my differing political opinions' You may want to check on that. Political beliefs are not protected by Title VII at the federal level. There may be protections at the state and local level, but of course that depends on exactly where you work. You are not protected by the 1st amendment unless you work for the government. – Charles E. Grant Dec 15 '18 at 22:23
  • Is there a reason why can't you just wait for the conversation to end and not participate? – Cypher Dec 21 '18 at 18:36
  • it's a mandatory meeting – Karen34 Jan 6 at 0:52
  1. Document the political discussion in a diary so you have evidence on what's being said and when
  2. Check your employee manual. Chances are there is policy that restricts political discussion in the work place. Most US companies do have these, and for good reasons.
  3. If there is a policy, you can VERY carefully approach HR. Something like "Hi, I have observed this behavior and I was wondering whether it's in line with policy XYZ. I think the policy is really helpful to avoid potential controversial discussion that are not related to work. Can you give some guidance on how to behave in these situations?".
  4. Be prepared to get a very evasive answer. That's ok. If HR takes action, they will do so behind closed doors, and you will never know about it other than the political talk stops all of a sudden.
  5. If there is no official policy, things are more tricky. You can still approach HR but have to be even more careful. Something like "I have observed regular political discussions that are not related to work and can be quite controversial. Can you give some guidance and what you feel is the appropriate behavior in these situation?"

The key here is to not blame or complain (yet). In most US companies, this is not acceptable behavior and HR will take care of it. Ideally that happens very discreetly and also in a way the no one loses face or gets overly upset about it.

"Asking for guidance" is a useful strategy. That's one of the very few things you can safely go to HR with. It's their job to interpret policy and define which behaviors are right or wrong.


I would begin by talking directly to your boss, and only bring in HR if that does not work and you still want to pursue the matter.

Whether or not one agrees with what happened to James Damore, he expressed a substantive opinion. The strategy you used in writing your question of not expressing any political opinions is a good one. Present your request to your boss in terms of not discussing politics, without agreeing or disagreeing with his expressed opinions. You can present it in terms both of the risk of political discussion making people feel uncomfortable and of time management. Meetings distract engineers from engineering, and should be kept to what is essential.

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