Politics is moving further and further away from work safe, but sadly, it still comes up every now and then.

In my workplace, a few very vocal people are in support of a certain presidential-candidate-to-be. Given my unfortunate luck, I'm surrounded by them in a little island of [candidate]-ism and even worse off, they're social and like to ask peoples opinions, generally (I assume) hoping to enforce their own. I don't want to express my opinion in this matter because I have to work with these people and don't want to be seen as an enemy to their ethically-nonstandard candidate.

As we ramp up to the election season, my coworkers seem to get more energized for their candidate and want to talk about him more which I find incredibly irksome. I'm starting to need some alternative approaches to not getting into these conversations other than burrowing into my work, jacking up my headphones, and looking more and more irate as they discuss political views, because if they ask me one more time I'm going to give 'em both double barrels (yes, both double barrels, as in four barrels, or two shotguns worth) of what I think of their candidate, which will not make me popular at all.

So, how can I avoid these conversations?

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    Ditching the attitude would be a good start. – Old_Lamplighter Mar 8 '16 at 20:05
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    Your current approaches sound like a good strategy. Another approach is to seem apathetic or disinterested with the conversation. Most people won't press an issue if they feel there's no where to go. I know many people that are a no-go with politics and would just respond. "I don't care about politics and don't vote." They are basically a wall so no one even brings it up to them. I'm not making this an answer since they might already know you have views. – Sirisian Mar 8 '16 at 20:07
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    I've removed all your vitriol. But basically your issue is "They candidate bad, me candidate good." Seems like you've already decided that [candidate] is evil incarnate, so I'm not sure what you can do. – user9158 Mar 8 '16 at 20:47
  • Three things I never get involved with, Politics, Religion, and other men's wives. – Kilisi Mar 9 '16 at 6:01

I have been the minority opinion holder in my group during election years. If you generally like these people, but just don't agree with their political choices and feel that political fervor by all means go for it. Team member don't have to agree on everything in the world.

But if you don't really want to open that can of worms and you really want them to stop talking about he who shall not be named near your work area, here are two things you could do:

  1. Direct. Tell them to take the conversation elsewhere. You're trying to get work done and they're talking about things unrelated to work.
  2. Indirect. Talk to your manager about your co-workers spending too much time talking about things unrelated to work.

I don't typically like to do either, but your co-workers are being unprofessional using work hours to discuss non-work related topics. If it's their break or lunch time, there isn't as much you can do except make sure their breaks aren't affecting your productivity.

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    "I think it is better to avoid discussing politics at work." may be a useful sentence for this situation. – Patricia Shanahan Mar 8 '16 at 21:58

First up, politics is generally not considered a work safe topic of discussion for pretty much the reasons you point out. People have a hard time not personalizing political topics, so in my mind it's right up there with religion on my list of things, anyway, that I don't engage in at work. Because of that, don't be afraid to either not comment, period, even when prodded, or to say something like "guys, I don't think talking politics at work is appropriate". If you have to elaborate, something like "not everyone may agree with your point of view" might be enough but even there, there is an angle where you're almost inviting the other party to say "OH YEAH, YOU MEAN LIKE YOU???? BLARGHARGHARGHGARBLE".

Otherwise, resist the urge to "come at them with both barrels". You might be able to totally lay into someone and then, 10 minutes later, keep that conversation completely out of the job you're doing, but there is no way you can guarantee that your co-worker will behave the same way. Sign up for a message board or Reddit if you need to vent some steam when these people say what they will about certain short-fingered vulgarians, but I would strongly suggest refraining from providing your opinions unless you are prepared to deal with the consequences.

One tactic I have used in the past on people like this is to figure out an area where you have some common interest with these people and whenever they start spewing their politics, gently change the conversation to that other topic instead. I worked with an otherwise great guy who had political opinions that kind of made my blood boil. We had a shared interest in history, so whenever he'd launch into some politically charged topic I'd try and find some way it was applicable to some cool moment in history and boom, we'd move to that instead. It worked pretty well, I think; I'm sure the guy knew that I didn't share his politics but in spite of the fact that I can be a pretty argumentative person, we did not have an actual political argument until my very last day on the job.

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    Anyone can not have an actual political argument until their very last day on the job. They just need to make sure their first political argument is a REALLY good one. – Erik Mar 8 '16 at 20:59

I'm feeling lazy so let's just quote Alison Green, as is my wont:

“Hey Bob, our politics are very different, so let’s stick to the history quizzes.”

“Hey Bob, I feel very uncomfortable when you bring up political topics, because our views are different and I’m not comfortable debating them at work.”

“We’re at opposite ends of the political spectrum, and I’m not comfortable talking politics at work, especially with someone I’m hoping will give me a reference in the future.”

If it continues after a couple of these, then get more pointed:

“I’m banning political discussions between us.”

“Ack, politics again. Time for me to get back to work.”

If you stick to refusing to engage, he’ll have to either back off or become so aggressive about forcing politics on you that at that point you can ask your manager for advice about how to handle him. Which would be an entirely legitimate and reasonable thing to do at that stage, since you’ll have already tried to handle it yourself and Bob’s behavior would have crossed the line into disruptive and inappropriate.

But try just asserting yourself first and see if that solves it.

And when you're dealing with a group:

“Any chance we can ban political talk until the election is over?”

Or, “We have people with lots of different political viewpoints here — in the interest of keeping things pleasant, can we avoid politics while we’re in meetings?”

You’re not likely to get an actual policy out of it (nor would I advocate one), but you can probably address it successfully this way on a case-by-case basis. People who insist on continuing on when you’ve directly asked them to stop — when you’re in a work meeting, as opposed to just overhearing their casual conversation — are rude. (But you probably can’t do anything about their casual conversations outside of meetings, although you can certainly decline to participate in those discussions.)


The simple solution is "hey, folks. I spend too much time debating politics elsewhere, and I'd really appreciate it if we could declare the office -- or at least the meeting rooms and lunch rooms and bathrooms -- no-politics spaces. If you need to vent or enthuse about candidates, please do so where folks who don't want to hear it don't have to listen."

That avoids getting into what it may or may not be that you don't want to hear. It avoids blaming anyone. it focuses on a productive solution that has minimal inconvenience to anyone. And it leaves some room for discussion of how politics will affect the business, which is sometimes annoying but also sometimes valuable.

In fact, that kind of policy is generally good practice, since it also reduces risk of offending customers. So you may be able to sell it to management as something they should suggest.


If you have the attitude of spewing your ideas about these people here, but not to their faces, you have very little to complain. You just don't voice your opinions.

If none of these people can make your life miserable (i.e. at higher ranks than you are) why don't you say your piece and be done with it ? If you are afraid of having HR retribution, so should they. If they are immune to HR troubles because your company is pro-whomever, then you are at the wrong workplace.No "if"s and "but"s about it. Going to a workplace, knowing well that you are going to be miserable is not the way you live your life.

You can file an official complaint about these people to your boss or to HR, but I am sure it will not make you the most popular person around.

In a free country, solutions are endless and you are in charge of yourself more than anybody else.

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