Is it professionally bad to reveal political orientation in non-political workplace in USA?

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    Not to get too deep into a political discussion - but social security and socialised medicine are not communist policies. They are on the left of the political spectrum, but you have to run a lot further left before you get to communism. – HorusKol Sep 2 '17 at 4:22
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    "Should I tell coworkers I'm a communist in the US" is almost an entirely different question as "Should I reveal my political orientation". Liberal versus conservative can already get really heated, and Americans (to my limited knowledge) tend to have much more negative views about communism than either of those two. – Bernhard Barker Sep 2 '17 at 9:19
  • mandatory xkcd : xkcd.com/1357 – Walfrat Sep 3 '17 at 17:50
  • This is not primarily opinion-based. There is no reason to close this question - or if there is, that isn't it. – rath Sep 8 '17 at 8:55

It's really best to keep political discussions out of the workplace, especially in the USA, where opinions are so polarized and intelligent debate has become rare. Workplace relationships can easily be ruined by political disagreements, and that's the definition of unprofessional, really.

The USA has a funny relationship with communism, in particular. Announcing you're a communist would be a lot like announcing that you pee in the shower. Publicly, everyone would act aghast, even if at least some of your audience would sympathize.

  • I love the last two lines, and it's so true. I live in a very liberal place, and a colleague declared their love for Trump unprompted. I was amazed; even if I happened to agree with them, I would never admit it in that environment! – Kat Sep 7 '17 at 5:54
  • Wait, you pee in the shower?! – Stephan Bijzitter Sep 8 '17 at 8:40
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    I can't believe you pee in the shower. I bet you're a Communist, too – rath Sep 8 '17 at 8:56
  • Peeing in the shower is actually good for the planet. It spares WC water. (rereading myself, I'm not sure wether I am serious...) – gazzz0x2z Sep 8 '17 at 11:47

General rule of thumb is not to mess with politics, religion & other mens wives. Instead just focus on your work and collect your pay.

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    In some parts of the US, affinity for certain sports teams should be on that list, too. – Wesley Long Sep 11 '17 at 6:55

Is it okay to reveal my political opinion in US workplace?

It depends on what you mean by "okay."

If you mean legal, then yes, most political viewpoints can be expressed freely as a part of your constitutional right to free speech; "hate speech" could be considered an exception, but the Supreme Court recently ruled that even that is protected under your First Amendment rights (although there are many prior cases of prosecution otherwise).

However, be sure to take into account and abide by corporate policies (often found in handbooks or orientation materials). An HR member should be able to help clarify if you have questions.

What are the consequences?

I'll answer this part by flipping the question: why should you "reveal" your political opinion? What do you stand to gain? I suppose you could try to win favor with your peers or managers, but there more impactful, substantial, and less risky ways to do that (i.e. doing your job well). You risk being rude or offensive to other people. You risk misaligning yourself with the political views of your organization. You risk ostracizing yourself (or others).

In my own experience, I've found that unless I know a colleague very well, it's just simply not worth the risk--especially when there are far better things to talk about.

When interacting with colleagues in small-talk, focus on building relationships. Talking politics yourself is a risky way to do that.

But that doesn't mean there aren't suave ways to still be involved in a discussion of politics. There are two effective strategies I've found to help handle these sorts of situations in my own workplace experience:

  1. Ask probing questions. You can participate in political discussions without vocally proclaiming your own opinions. Listen attentively and ask some questions. Even if you aren't intimately familiar with the latest news, you can still ask a few follow-up questions to carry a conversation. Most people enjoy talking about themselves, so let them! It's a win-win because it comes at no risk to you, and your colleague thinks better of you as a result.
  2. Gracefully change the subject. You don't have to be obvious about avoiding politics. Find a natural transition to other, less politicized current events. Typically, safe topics that make great bilateral conversation include sports, weather, local events or news, family, weekend plans, and so on.

Further reading: The Etiquette of Talking Politics (Huffington Post blog)

  • I am not leading the conversation, I will not risk changing the conversation for my sake. I am trying to join the "small talk" and increase camaraderie (again a heavily used term in communist places!). And increasingly the US Americans do not feel any threat in revealing their political inclination, which makes me uneasy when I cannot change the topic, but join them and pitch in. I have not seen anything in HR manual. And as an odd man out I do not want to be the the first person out of the moon asking HR such 'uneasy' question, because it is not work-hours (lunch time). – AAI Sep 2 '17 at 3:14
  • Do you work in an office setting? – colbin8r Sep 2 '17 at 3:18
  • Kindly elaborate "office setting". I work, I get paid. I go to office for work. Hence, the question is workplace related, not work related. – AAI Sep 2 '17 at 3:19
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    But the answer does depend on the workplace. Office buildings have different etiquette than construction sites. My answer is geared towards folks who typically work in an office-like building (e.g. chemists, marketing, accounting, software development). As for your comment, it sounds like you have already come to your own conclusions. I suggested a less-risky way to stay involved in a political conversation that might be useful. – colbin8r Sep 2 '17 at 20:35
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    Why do you need to reveal you political orientation? You can discuss specific topics without triggering a full ideological debate. What worked very well for me is to sum up arguments in my favor, but also repeat a few arguments for the opposite claim (except if it is truly outrageous, which is seldom the case) to show that I understand why someone else might see this differently. By doing this, I also avoid being viewed as a stubborn ideologist or a radical, so questions about my political orientation practically never come up. – Thern Sep 8 '17 at 10:09

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