The U.S.A. just witnessed its first debate of the 2012 presidential election.

Invariably, workers all over the country will be eager to discuss what they saw on television.

But this begs a larger question that can be universally applied worldwide:

  • How do workers who know that discussing politics can often lead to uncomfortable situations (and would quite frankly just rather get some work done) avoid discussing government politics at work?
  • 6
    just don't get into the discussion or change the subject Oct 4, 2012 at 7:56
  • I only ever discuss politics with people I consider myself having a fairly close personal relationship with, and hardly even then if it's someone I work with. And only during lunch/breaks. Just leave the conversation or, if they're camping your workspace, a polite "sorry, but I have to get back to work now" usually makes them leave.
    – pap
    Oct 4, 2012 at 12:39
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    you tell them you can care less and didn't watch the debate -- as was the case with me
    – amphibient
    Oct 4, 2012 at 13:50
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    You are not really asking anything here. And I do not see how there is any constructive question can be worked around this. RL politics often complicate office politics. But if your question is how to you stop someone else from expressing their opinions. That is not a constructive question Oct 4, 2012 at 19:46
  • 1
    @Jim G.: I have a rule, I never discuss politics, sex or religion at work, plain and simple, hold YOUR tongue, let others do what they will do! Oct 5, 2012 at 22:39

3 Answers 3


The golden rule is:

Never discuss politics or religion at work

Be the bigger person and don't get caught up in such conversations, regardless of how intriguing and regardless of how much you want to speak. Even if your fuming uncontrollable disagreement with what you are hearing is boiling over into a supressed rage, it is a bad idea.

I used to have a boss that made no secret of his political leanings, and while he didn't try to start a conversation with me, his casual comments on various unrelated things gave away his stance pretty clearly. He was always trying to figure out the political leanings of people who worked for him, perhaps because I honestly believe he looked down on employees who didn't share his world view.

I know I did a good job of keeping my politics a secret because his behavior towards me personally wasn't strained at all. I did this by avoiding such conversations in their entirety. Others I think weren't so lucky and may have been passed up for promotions because of this. Knowing that these conversations and seemingly harmless water cooler talk could affect your career should be motivation enough.

  • 1
    That golden rule should include "or at work-related functions" -- I don't want to hear about how much my boss hates the candidate I like just because I'm trapped in his car on the way to a team lunch and we're not technically "at work" :/ Oct 5, 2012 at 14:15

How do you avoid discussing anything non work related at work?

The interest around politics may have peaked after the debate in the US, but in Greece politics (and more specifically the economy) is what everyone is interested in discussing for at least the past couple of years. You'd imagine that it would be far more difficult for us to avoid such discussions, but it really isn't. Just don't talk about politics yourself, and politely excuse yourself from the company when someone else starts the discussion.

Coincidentally I've worked in two environments which can be considered polar opposites when it comes to discussing politics, one was a town hall (where politics were actually our work) and the other was the Army (where discussing politics is strictly forbidden).

Couple of years after I left my position at the town hall, that involved regular meetings with elected officials, my co-workers there were surprised to find out that (at the time) I was a supporter of a minor opposition party. I had spend nearly seven years in an environment where politics were all there was to talk about without disclosing my own affiliations. I just never talked about it ;)

Every workplace is different, but I don't think that in a typical workplace there's much room or time for non work related discussions. Certainly we all take a break once in a while, and we all might get caught in an uncomfortable discussion around the water cooler, but those discussions tend to be short (how long can your break really be?) and easy to evade. My standard excuse when things start getting uncomfortable, or I'm simply not interested in the discussion, is that... I have to get back to work. Simple, isn't it?


You cannot control what other people will say; you can only control what you do in response.

Viktor Frankl put it:

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

When folks start discussing politics, you can always demurr and say you are busy, or that you don't want to talk about it. Debates do not exist to change people's minds, they are performed to score points amongst the faithful of your own side. This is why both sides are claiming "my guy won!"

  • 2
    +1 for the first part but when you got into the actualities of the process you lost it. Oct 4, 2012 at 19:50

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