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After US's controversial election season, a workmate and friend started blaring conspiracy theories and criticizing the government over company chat in one of the channels. The occasional conversation is fine, I'm open to idea sharing. But I think it has reached the point that it has become distracting and at the same time awkward. I've worked with this person for years, but only recently did they start doing this.

I'd find myself or someone else defusing the conversation by switching topics. But they're persistent, coming back moments later with more. They would post articles and videos on company chat, urging us to read/watch. They'd ask awkward questions like ethnicity, race, origins, political views, sides taken. They even mention that we'll come over to their side someday. It's also useless to argue, as they sound the type that's committed to their beliefs and would refuse views other than their own. HR may also be on the same train, as they once posted a photo also over company chat that implicitly showed the side they're on.

I'm in an awkward spot, and probably other people are too. Everyone has their opinions, but doing it this way seems very unprofessional. I believe there are unspoken rules in the workplace, and they're breaking some of them.

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    Welcome to the site. Can you add a more concrete question of what you want from us? Right now this reads more like a situation sketch, but we like to help you reach your goal, not just give generic advice. Feel free to check the help center for more information on how to ask a great question. – Erik Feb 18 at 20:25
  • Have you tried simply ignoring these conversations? The world is full of people espousing views that are better kept to themselves. You don't have to be an active participant. If this is impacting your ability to communicate with your team or if this is impacting your ability to do your job then bring it up with your manager. – joeqwerty Feb 18 at 22:52
  • @SolarMike I have several other people in that channel, some actually doing it. Tone and word choice changed after that, hence the "you'll come over to our side someday" implying that they are aware and will do more to explain. – Jack Feb 19 at 15:24
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    @JoeStrazzere It's a "friends channel" supposedly, a channel which one cannot simply leave without drama trailing behind. – Jack Feb 19 at 15:28
  • @joeqwerty I've tried ignoring the channel. Unfortunately, the people in this channel also happen to be close friends/people I trust in the company/people that I get an "independent view" on office matters (they're assigned to different work). – Jack Feb 19 at 15:31
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How to deal with workmate's constant promotion of conspiracy theories

Ignore those types of messages, pretend they were never sent.

You need to only acknowledge and respond to work related messages in the company chat.

This individual seems like they are seeking attention and/or reaffirmation of their thoughts. As long as you continue to engage with them in any manner ( even attempting to change the subject ), they will continue to send these types of messages. The best way to make them stop or at least stop yourself from wasting your time is to ignore those messages.

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  • I agree entirely with the answer...but my person approach would be to attempt to one up their conspiracies with ever more absurd garbage...what about the Cloud People? Everyone surely knows the connection with between the Illuminati and the how the moon is actually a front for the Moon matrix machine that prevents us from seeing the Lizard People???? #lizardtruth – morbo Mar 19 at 17:15
  • @morbo: IMHO life is too short to get sucked into some kind of bizarre workplace drama over a coworker's inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. So I would not do what you propose. – Kevin Mar 22 at 7:07
  • @Kevin Yes, sure. To each their own. My way of dealing with fantasia doesn’t have to be yours :). – morbo Mar 22 at 8:51
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Please let your manager know about this. They have an interest to know of anything that be interfering with your work and productivity. I agree with your concern that such reckless behavior at work is unprofessional and you and fellow colleagues should not have to tolerate such behavior. If you feel comfortable, state plainly and explicitly that you find such talk unbecoming of a colleague in a professional work environment, and state you want the colleague to stop. Dont feel uncomfortable in asserting yourself. It's not something anyone has to tolerate.

The company also has an interest in protecting its reputation and having such employees detracts from such mission. There have been plenty of examples of companies in the USA who have distanced themselves from excessively politicized and harmful conspiracy stories in the recent past months.

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This is a tough situation to be in if you know the colleague well.

With the increased social networking aspect of the internet gaining popularity, a lot of people are now unknowingly getting addicted to "echo chambers" on the internet that reinforce their own beliefs. Due to this constant reinforcement - a kind of a feedback-loop where everyone in such "echo chamber" reinforce each others views - many of us are actually brainwashing ourselves! (Yes, we are all guilty of this, in varying degree, with different interests).

Empathy and a lot of patience are necessary here.

In general, the mistake made by you, and others in the company is that you broke the golden rule - never discuss religion and politics and other such related sensitive topics in your workplace.

I'd advise you to start practicing that from now.

Listen, but do not engage. (What happens when you engage? If you like what he shares, he gets positive reinforcement. If you disagree with something he will look even more deeply into the topic, but from his "echo chamber" sources, and so you inadvertently reinforce his beliefs more - and you engaging in disagreement with him also gives him a high.)

At some point, you can start disengaging by telling him that you are completely bored with politics and would rather discuss any other subject with him. On another level, if HR is not nipping such discussions in the company chatrooms, talk to the owner or CEO. Suggest to them to start a new policy to ban such discussions as it is not fostering a healthy workplace, and is quite distracting.

Sometimes people do change for the worse. Worst case, cut off your personal ties and just maintain a professional working relation with this colleague.

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