It's an election year, meaning politics is top of mind for many people. So, what should you do if you're at work and talk turns to the presidential race? In the past, discussions like these were taboo. But according to a recent survey, they are becoming more acceptable. In a poll of office workers by Robert Half International, 67 percent of respondents said talking about political candidates and campaigns is OK as long as the debate isn't too heated. Only 18 percent said political chat in the workplace is inappropriate.
Politics may be out in the open at the office, but you can easily offend your colleagues if you don't broach the topic appropriately. Here are some do's and don'ts to keep in mind:
* Do follow company rules. Some firms have policies against posting or distributing political materials. Even if your employer doesn't have formal restrictions in place, you may want to avoid expressing your opinions if doing so is generally frowned upon. Remember, too, that unspoken cues, like buttons declaring your beliefs, can be distracting to others.
* Don't put people on the spot. Never ask coworkers point blank about how they plan to vote or their political views. Not everyone is comfortable sharing his or her opinions, particularly at work.
* Do bow out when necessary. If you'd rather not get involved in a discussion or you want to exit an existing debate, try to tactfully remove yourself from the conversation. For instance, you might say, "Sorry, I'm staying out of this one" and get back to work.
* Don't sacrifice productivity. It's easy to get so caught up in reading the latest political news online or talking about the headlines with coworkers that valuable time slips away. Limiting these activities to your break times can keep you on track.
* Do respect others' views. If you find yourself on opposite sides of the fence with colleagues, avoid a heated exchange. You may harm working relationships if it gets too emotional or personal.
* Don't cross the line. The last thing you want is to become known around the office more for your political views than for your contributions and IT expertise. That includes determining when talking politics is appropriate and when it gets in the way of doing your job. So, be careful about initiating and participating in too many political discussions. Though some of the tips above may seem obvious, it never hurts to refresh your memory on the best methods for tactfully discussing politics in the office. Being able to discuss your views in a professional and respectful manner can help you build stronger relationships with colleagues - and keep the ones you have intact.
Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support.