Go Ahead, Talk About Politics at Work

Published June 1, 2016

If you think this is going to be a column that advises you to abide by the conventional wisdom never to discuss money or politics in mixed company, you’d be dead wrong.

I myself am a political junkie. (Some might use the term “animal” and I wouldn’t correct them.) And not just about the U.S. presidential election, but every sort of political competition or debate, here and even abroad, gets my blood going.

I couldn’t not talk about politics at work if I tried.

But that’s not the reason I’m going to urge you to talk about politics at the office. I’m going to urge you to do it because I’m a huge believer that you should always bring your whole self to work. You should bring your interests and your passions. You should bring your authenticity. Being real is the only way to be. Otherwise work would be boring, filled with phony stiffs and fake conversations. Can you imagine that – 40 or 50 hours a week? Horrible. Like holding your breath until you get home.

So, bring your political views to work. Just remember four small rules of thumb when you do.

1) Everyone says they support “diversity,” and they wish their workplaces had more of it. That viewpoint, which I’ll assume you hold, includes political diversity. So when someone has a different stance than you do on a particular politician or policy, put your money where your mouth is. Embrace their differences, or accept that you’re a hypocrite.

2) It’s OK to share your political views, as long as it’s in the context of a conversation. Don’t just spout your views like a chimney blowing smoke. Ask your co-workers what they believe and why. Engage in debate, understanding that debates have two (or more) sides.

3) Perhaps because they feel so personal, politics have a way of making people emotional. We assert our views too vehemently or with too much edge; we judge and exhort. We stop asking questions and start making pronouncements. All such behaviors border on obnoxiousness. Don’t cross that line. Disagree – sure. But if the temperature begins to really heat up, back off and turn on the collegial AC.

4) Work still comes first. I’ll be the first to admit that political banter can take over an office, especially when there’s more than one political junkie around. That’s not OK, and if it starts to happen, it’s on the political junkies to dial it back. You’re at work to get results for your customers and your organization. That’s everyone’s bottom line.

The political season is upon us, and it’s only going to get more heated as November approaches. But politics are always around us, even when it’s not an election cycle. And look, we’re human beings, not automatons. Talk about what’s happening in the world, and be yourself while you’re at it. Politics is an exciting and critical part of life, and that doesn’t stop at the office door.

About the Author(s)
Jack Welch

Jack Welch

Executive Chairman & Author

Jack Welch Management Institute

Jack Welch is the co-author of the book, The Real-Life MBA — Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career, with his wife Suzy Welch. The book debuted as a #1 Wall Street Journal and Washington Post best-seller. Jack is executive chairman of the Jack Welch Management Institute. 

Years at GLS 2010