In the United States, polite conversation doesn’t include politics because it can quickly become contentious or offensive. This taboo holds true in both professional and personal settings. However, the 2016 presidential election turned the taboo of talking about politics at work on its head.
Unfortunately, political discussions at work can quickly crossover into classes that are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws. “Criticism of (Hillary) Clinton could veer into negative comments about women,” wrote Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz in The Chicago Tribune. “Voicing support for temporary bans on Muslims entering the country and building a border wall to keep out Mexican immigrants could lead to religion or national origin claims.”
In addition, political discussion can adversely effect a worker’s professional trajectory, particularly if it runs counter to the company’s culture. According to Aimee Cohen, a Denver-based career coach and author, “This can really impede your advancement and your progress and career within an organization. Let's say, for instance, your boss does not share those same political views as you. Consciously, or subconsciously, you are not going to be in favor with your boss.” (Perkins)
Aside from potentially violating federal law and damaging one’s career, this taboo topic can either help employees bond or isolate them from one another, as revealed in a recent study by the American Psychological Association.
Spell it out
That’s why it is important to spell out what is acceptable in company policies. “Bill Wortel, a Chicago-based partner at Bryan Cave and leader in the law firm's labor and employment group, said he recommends private employers have policies on discussing politics at work, though not an outright ban because federal labor law gives employees the right to discuss certain topics,” writes Elejalde-Ruiz.
As for stunting your career growth by respectfully disagreeing with your supervisor’s political opinion, I would say it may be time to seek employment in an organizations in which all points of view are not only welcomed, but encouraged.
"Elejalde-Ruiz, Alexia, Taboos over talking politics at work loosen during divisive election season, Chicago Tribune, 1 July 2016,
http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-talking-politics-at-work-0703-biz-20160629-story.html, Accessed 9 March 2017."
"Perkins, Olivera. Top 10 taboo topics you should never share at work, The Plain Dealer, 23 February 2015, http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2015/02/top_10_taboo_topics_you_should.html, Accessed 9 March 2017."