What to Do?
Now that you know the reasons not to discuss politics at work, how do you stop it from happening?
Employers: Be proactive early, not defensive later. Experts agree that it's easier for employers to contain political talk in the office if they're on top of it before the election season starts. Human resources departments should use the spring and summer to reacquaint their companies with company policies. Although an employee handbook wouldn't address political discussions, "it should absolutely state that diverse opinions and diversity in general are honored," Heathfield says.
Outside of the handbook, employers should "remind employees about respecting each other, including in the way they communicate with each other," Carvin suggests.
Employees: Stay out of the fray. If your co-worker tries to engage you in a political conversation, politely decline. And if you overhear political talk going on, keep your two cents out of it. "The important thing is don't express your opinion," Heathfield says. "Because then you've given someone something to work against."
Report problems to a manager. If you're uneasy with the office talk, take it to a manager to squash it. "In any situation where an employee is uncomfortable with what's happening, the expectation is that the employee is going to state that they're unhappy," Heathfield says. "HR would tell the party that the other party is uncomfortable, and then probably work with the employee's manager to work through the problem."
Rebuild a harmonious culture post-election. "It's impossible to stop political discussion in the office completely," Carvin says. "So we have to start thinking about what to do to heal things in the aftermath." She suggests companies set a goal to heal things by inauguration, and to work to achieve it through team-building exercises and refocusing departments on corporate goals.