Should Virtual Office Workers Discuss Politics on Election Day?

NEW YORK—It’s Election Day. That means there’s going to be plenty of anticipation—and plenty of debate—in the workplace over who will become the next president of the United States. That opens the door to lots of bad blood in the workplace. But virtual office workers like me can avoid the political fray.

Indeed, politics are on everyone’s mind today and that’s not going to automatically die down after Election Day. But a new survey from CareerBuilder.com reveals workers may feel more comfortable keeping their political views out of the office. I'm sure the same holds true for virtual office workers.

“It is easy for a conversation about politics in the office to become an argument about politics,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources at CareerBuilder. “For the most part, people want to avoid controversy in the office as much as possible. Avoiding discussions of politics may be one way they can do that.”

Specifically, 66 percent of workers don’t share their political affiliation at work, and 28 percent of workers said they feel like they need to keep their affiliation secret around the office. When you work in a virtual office, it’s a lot easier not to engage in political debates but some still do.

For example, the CareerBuilder study also found that men are more likely than women to share their political beliefs at work. Thirty-seven percent of men say they share their affiliation compared to 31 percent of women. Eighty-two percent of respondents said that they plan to vote in November.

Ninety-eight percent of workers don’t have U.S. presidential campaign items or decorations on display in their office. Workers who keep their political affiliations secret at work usually do so because they don’t feel politics should be discussed in the office unless it affects their job (68 percent) and only 13 percent keep their affiliation secret because they think their co-workers mostly support the opposing party.

Working from a virtual office gives you more privacy in many ways. And that may come in handy as the election results start rolling in state by state. But if you feel you must engage in the discussion from your virtual office, either via email, Skype or social media, Haefner offers the following tips:

1. Find things you agree on: Discussing facts and values you agree upon can help ensure the conversation remains respectful.

2. Deal only with the facts: Exaggerating and spinning facts are common ways to start an argument.

3. Pay attention to their tone and body language. If your coworker becomes quiet or overly defensive, it is best to back off and steer the conversation back to respect and agreement.

So whether you work from a virtual office or not—and whether you are comfortable discussing politics or not—use wisdom when you do. Now, excuse me while I go out to vote and then return to my virtual office.


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