Do Business and Politics Mix?

Three fourths of workers are comfortable sharing their political views with business associates, according to a survey by the American Management Association. But are political rants around the water cooler a good idea?

If we are to believe the many political pundits and various pollsters pointing to the increasing polarity of American politics, then we should be wary of discussing politics with co-workers.

It can be difficult, if not impossible, however, to completely avoid political discussions in the workplace.  What can you do to minimize the fall out that can result from encountering a co-worker with views diametrically opposed to yours?

Know to Whom You're Talking

Of course the first rule of thumb is to avoid political discussions if at all possible, unless of course, you are sure that your partner in conversation shares your views. Otherwise, you should take care to get a sense of where the other person stands politically. If they take a strong stand on an issue that you are strongly opposed to, try to exit the conversation gracefully. You can use humor to lighten the situation or try changing the subject to a less controversial topic.

If you are in a management position, it's advisable to stay away from political discussions altogether, unless of course, they involve your work. For example, if you serve as a government affairs director of a large company, politics invariably enter the picture during the course of your business activities.

If Possible, Avoid Mixing Politics and Business

To play it safe, you should do your best to avoid political discussions in a business context. Many companies have management policies that prohibit certain actions regarded as political, such as sending emails around the office in an effort to gain support for a particular candidate. Make sure you are aware of any such management policies.

Otherwise, save your best political arguments for conversations around the dinner table--it's a good way to get your children interested in government and a sure way to avoid any uncomfortable conversations with acquaintances in the workplace.