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Business Etiquette and Politics

Published:Thursday | February 11, 2016 | 3:19 PM

As election time nears, the political thermometer is heating up in offices across the nation. No matter which side of the fence you are on, there are simple steps you can take to keep your workplace from becoming a political zoo. Remember, you still have to be with your colleagues long after the poll results are in.

To safeguard yourself, be a good political strategist by being aware of the general climate in your office. If you work for an organisation that flaunts its politics, your parallel view is probably an asset, not a liability. If, on the other hand, you happen to see the world from a different angle, it may be wisest to lay low.

If you are approached by others to talk politics and you don't want to, extract yourself from the conversation, the more light-hearted you can be about the exit the better.

If you are a passionate supporter of a particular candidate and can't refuse the urge to rock the vote at the office, use your common sense. Remember, having loyalty is great, but when the energy invested in politicking takes you away from getting your primary job done, you've gone too far.

TIPS ON TALKING

Take a deep breath and refer to my tips on talking politics below to keep the conversation polite.

1. Allow the other person to state his or her opinion. Don't interrupt, allow others to make their feelings heard.

2. Keep your voice down to a low roar - Don't allow yourself to get worked up and start a shouting match with your co-workers.

3. Educate yourself on important issues - it's important to at least be familiar with the beliefs and platform of each candidate to allow for knowledgeable discussion. Remember, being well informed is always best.

4. Don't take it personally - keep the discussion in perspective and ask yourself how much anxiety and conflict you are willing to undergo at the office or with friends by arguing over who the better candidate may be. Never resort to name-calling or shame tactics.

5. Vote - it's a cop-out to say, 'I don't like any of the candidates, so I'm not going to vote' - if you don't vote for someone, anyone, you have no room to complain.

6. Keep it clean - use your best judgement and keep your interactions civil.

7. Don't assume that everyone wants to talk politics. Asking someone how he or she intends to vote in the election is invasive, unless the information is offered first.

8. Use your sensitivity training. Be mindful of how you are making others feel by voicing your strong opinions and avoid monopolising the entire conversation with politics. Have other conversation topics handy in your conversational arsenal to pull from when the conversation is too heated.

If you must step in and manage out of control campaigner, keep your discussion to how the distraction of election season is affecting the quality of work being done and have specific examples to back up your assertions. We are all entitled to our own opinions.

n Michelle Parkes is a certified etiquette consultant. She can be reached at bright.sparkes@hotmail.com