I used to have a very chatty manager that wanted to spend some time at work chatting about all kind of stuff. This is more or less normal I think.

What was a bit weird was that my manager used to hold a lot of opinions that I would consider somehow common (at least in the region were I used to leave) but quite wrong. Most of his opinions were not against law, but were what I would describe as "backward" and especially common among old uneducated people living in my area.

Some of his opinions for instance were:

  • cyclists should not be allowed on the road and cycle paths are a waste of space
  • the "mission" in life of a person should be to have kids and grow them properly. If you don't you are just wasting your life
  • at the same time when you are young and not married yet you should spend your time "having fun" with girls
  • a cheap car makes you look ridiculous
  • climate change is probably a hoax and any effort to improve the environment is a thing for idiots
  • the perfect holiday is his kind of holiday, which is on a beach resort getting tanned. Every other type of holiday destination was just a waste of your holiday time

You got the idea I think.

This gave way to a kind of environment were his opinions ended up as the baseline of any discussion since some of the people working with this manager just tended to (genuinely) agree with what he said, other people didn't agree but never voiced any different point of view and tried to talk about different subjects, and, more importantly, people openly disagreeing were often sidelined and saw their career progression stop, up to the point were they just preferred to leave.

My first reaction was to try to discuss some of these topics in a more light-hearted way, making him notice that different point of views may exist and be valid (such as by making passing remarks on what was on the news), but it never worked. I ended up just avoiding any discussion and eventually leaving.

Is the behaviour that I've seen from this manager somehow acceptable? Do you think there could have been a better reaction?

An important addition to this question is how I would describe most of the topics discussed by said manager as non-political, at least not directly. The main common characteristics of his point of views was to be very judgmental, in some occasions without any specific target and in some cases addressed towards someone (as in "You went to and spent all your days there in museum? You really don't know how to travel mate" or "you are getting salad again? You must be fun at parties" at the canteen).

  • @DaveGremlin The interesting thing is that most of this is not "politics". It's just small talks. – heapOverflow Oct 14 '19 at 14:53
  • @JoeStrazzere I left for a mix of reasons, but this was maybe one of the main ones, yeah. Both because of the direct effect of an office culture I didn't like and because of the perception of starting to be getting sidelined because of my refusal to join office small talks. – heapOverflow Oct 14 '19 at 14:57
  • These type of person can't be beaten. they will NEVER accept they're wrong or that someone think different. I just give them the famou' oh yeah sure " and I just leave. – Green Baloon Oct 14 '19 at 18:27

When I encounter this type of person my main response is to just nod and give verbal affirmatives until they tire themselves out of the subject. Bobbing your head and giving a soft "uh huh" or "oh, sure" gives the look that you're listening, but don't want to engage. Eventually, they run out of things to say on the subject and will change it naturally, or just end the conversation. This prevents you from getting engaged in an argument or debate, but also does it in a way that makes you seem like you're listening.

People like this aren't looking to have their views changed. When you're talking about someone who is so ridiculous that they think their style of having fun is the only viable way to have fun, you won't convince them otherwise and it's just best to ignore it.

On occasion they might press for your opinion, and the best advice I can give there is don't engage even then. Just say something like "I'm not well informed enough to make an opinion on that" or "honestly, I've never thought too much about it". Something neutral that doesn't confirm or deny, but still pretty much shuts it down.

Is the behaviour that I've seen from this manager somehow acceptable?

No, definitely not. Politics are one of the major things you generally shouldn't bring up in polite company. Making open judgements about others by insulting their choice of vehicle and their number of (or lack of) children certainly isn't professional either.

But at the same time, it's not so big of a deal it's worth bringing up. It's just a social situation. A bad one that your manager shouldn't be putting you into, but still just social regardless.

  • The idea is good, but don't say you're uninformed or haven't thought about it. Say that you don't discuss that at work. If you say you're uninformed, they'll start sending you YouTube videos and articles so you can get "informed" (from their point of view, whatever it is). If you say you don't discuss politics at work, it settles it. – Max A. Oct 13 '19 at 18:33
  • Great! And then I can just ignore those videos and articles the same way I ignore their talking. Telling them you "don't discuss politics" at work only works when it's... political. Telling someone your vacation spot is the only one anyone should go to or that people who can't afford a nice car are "ridiculous" aren't political topics, and you'll just look weird if you say "sorry, I don't talk politics at work" in response. It also opens you up to MORE political talk if it IS political; they'll just assume "I don't discuss it" means you're the opposite party. I've seen that many, many times. – Baron Oct 13 '19 at 21:55
  • Your solution means they will continue to bother you about it. Mine means they will shut up. Since the OP's situation is political, your other stuff about the vacation and the car is off topic. – Max A. Oct 13 '19 at 23:41
  • What are you talking about? The situation about vacations and the car is a direct quote from OP's post. How is it "off topic"? – Baron Oct 14 '19 at 1:49

The best you can do is to remove yourself from the conversation. Trying to change someone's long held believes is a losing battle. Chances are they feel the same way about your opinions than you do about theirs, so it's unlikely that any good can come of trying to challenge each other.

It's not professional of your manager to do this at work, but it's also not the end of the world either. Technically you could complain about it and may be able to stop it, but this is certain to hurt someone's feelings so you need to decide if it's worth to you to pick a battle or if you can live with just ignoring it.

  • That's more or less what I did. What happened was that during all these conversations and small talks people occasionally also talked about work related stuff and often I ended up out of the loop and more and more removed from important conversations. – heapOverflow Oct 14 '19 at 14:59

The correct response depends on the person in question.

Some people are quite happy to have their views challenged and will enjoy the back and forth banter if you can broach the subject in a friendly way. Don't expect them to change their opinion on the topic but you can both enjoy exploring each others "crazy world view".

Other people won't enjoy having their view challenged.

The first thing you need to figure out is if you are the first kind of person or if you are the second. If you don't like having your world view challenged and/or expect the other person to change their opinion then you should avoid opening up this kind of conversation. It will upset you and to an extent it will be your fault you are upset.

If you decide that you are happy to have this kind of conversation then you can test the waters. A good way to do this would be to adopt an obviously silly position.... maybe counter his hatred of bicycles with a suggestion that "wouldn't it make more sense to ban cars?". Adopting a silly position like this is a good way of signalling that you are open to some friendly banter on the subject. If they respond well then you found yourself a new friend! Obviously, if they respond poorly to this then you know to keep your mouth shut in the future.

Is the behaviour that I've seen from this manager somehow acceptable?

It isn't professional.

People will be people. It is normal for them to commit thought crimes and often speech crimes, even if they shouldn't. If possible you should live and let live.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .