How do I get my coworkers to stop talking about politics?

Dear Liz,
I work as an administrative assistant in an office with a small staff. It’s mostly me and my supervisor and his boss all sharing the same space. I don’t bring my personal opinions and views to work because work is for work. Period. But my bosses do and it is driving me crazy. All day long they talk about Trump this and LePage that. How do I get them to quit talking about politics at work?
– Sick of Politics

Dear Sick of Politics,

There is nothing worse than having to endure irritating water cooler talk at work, especially if you find that it is interrupting your ability to get your job done. But when that chit chat is something as divisive as politics, especially given current events, the hackles can go up quickly making work feel downright hostile.

With an eye toward keeping the peace (and your job,) I would start by talking with HR. They can help you navigate these tricky waters with advice and they may even have a company policy to point to. If you don’t have an HR office at your company then I would suggest talking to your supervisor, except that in this case, it sounds like the next ranks in your chain of command are the problem.

The next best thing is to have an honest and direct conversation with your bosses. You might be surprised to find that they will be accommodating. It is possible that the topic of politics is one of those sticky areas that once they get jabber-jawing they can’t shut up. Like they can’t help themselves. Being decent and kind in how you initiate the conversation can set the tone for civility and will hopefully lead to a resolution that everyone can feel ok about.

Or, they will be jerks about it. If this is the case then you have one of two potential strategies. The first, assuming you want and need to keep this job, is to try to make it work by tuning them out, or jump into the conversations in order to change the subject, or even pop in some earbuds and listen to white noise.

The second, and I kind of love this option because it assumes that you are in a position to leave your job. Be obnoxious right back. Invite a marching band to come practice in your shared office space. Eat ridiculously smelly foods. Take up an annoying habit that cannot possibly be overlooked – like talking about politics in the office.

I’m kidding. Don’t do that.

Good luck!

~ Liz

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