Regardless who you're backing in November it can't be denied this election season is charged like no other in recent history. Everyone has an opinion about what's happening politically, but venting about Trump or Clinton in the office is a terrible idea, especially for anyone in management. That's according to Gregg Ward, author of "The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways To Influence Without Intimidation." Considering the diversity of the modern workforce, half the people on any team may agree with you, but the other half will feel disconnected from anyone spewing political opinions different from their own. "If you're their  boss, you in a way are responsible for their lives and their careers," he says. "If they disagree with you on some fundamental political things, there's going to be a trust gap."

Here's Ward's advice for how to stay in the safe zone and extricate yourself from heated political conversations at work.

1.  Buy yourself some time.

When coworkers are standing around the Keurig and ask you if you saw the latest debate, or if you heard what one of the candidates said about a particular issue, play dumb. Someone with a strong opinion will go into teaching mode instead of venting emotionally. This gives you time to listen and respond appropriately.  

2. Find common ground.

Say something completely true--and impartial--such as, "I think we can all agree that's a very controversial (or loaded or difficult or challenging) topic." In doing so you're making the person feel as if you're involved in the conversation without giving away your opinion.

3. Change the subject, but not abruptly.

You can't just say "How about those Yankees?" because you haven't de-escalated the person's strong emotional state regarding politics. Agree that the subject is complicated while thinking about what work-related subject you can transition to.

4. Use gentle humor.

You can also poke a bit of fun at someone who airs a strong political opinion at work. "If they're a halfway decent person you can look at them with a big smile and say, 'Tell us what you really think' and they'll realize they've gone over the top," he says. "Or you could say something like, 'Wow, I had no idea that Donald Trump was running for president,' or something so outrageous that people are going to laugh because you've taken it into a place of absurdity."

5. If you must bash a candidate, do it over a beer.

Again, it's never good to discuss religion or politics at work. Save this kind of talk for after hours, when you're probably hanging out with like-minded people who are your friends.

6. Walk away.

None of Ward's tips will work with a sociopath. "I've worked with them. I've coached them," he says. "If somebody's a true sociopath what I generally say is 'You'll have to excuse me--I have to use the restroom,' and I will literally walk away. Because I'm not going to win with that person. They are going to cause an explosion."

Published on: Jul 27, 2016
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