With election day coming up next Tuesday, I thought it apropos to post author Barbara Pachter's list of political questions that probably should be avoided in the workplace.
[The photo posted is Democratic senatorial candidate Joe Sestak campaigning at my alma mater, Penn State, earlier in the month. In the photo, he's encountering supporters of his opponent, Pat Toomey.]
Pachter, author of numerous business books, including "NewRules@Work: 79 Etiquette Tips, Tools, and Techniques to Get Ahead and Stay Ahead," says it can be tempting to get into political discussions at work.
Pachter, who also penned "The Power of Positive Confrontation," continues: “In today’s super-charged political climate it’s easy to say something that insults your boss, customer or co-worker. People have strong opinions when it comes to politics. Political discussions can quickly and easily escalate into arguments, sometimes heated ones.”
Yet, Pachter acknowledges, it’s hard to avoid discussions as we are being bombarded with political ads day and night (I'm thinking of the millions of emails I get every day from the Sestak and Toomey campaigns, and the political ads for Mark Painter and John Rafferty that find their way into my mailbox at home daily.) But, Pachter said, if you think of the consequences of discussing the following questions, you may not ask them.
Below are her taboo questions and explanations:
1. Who are you going to vote for?
Do not ask this question! You may get an answer you did not expect or want. Your opinion of that person can be altered, often negatively, if he or she is not voting for your candidate.
2. Who do you think won the debate?
You and your colleague may have very different opinions about who answered the questions effectively or who looked good behind the podium. Arguing the points will usually not resolve them. If a colleague keeps pushing his/her opinion, you can say, “Let’s agree to disagree.”
3. How can you possibly vote for____?
Asking this question is not just commenting on the person’s choice, it is putting the person down. Discussions can quickly become ugly after that!
4. Don’t you think the candidate’s stance on ______ is outrageous?
Using strong negative language to discuss an issue can become fighting words to people. If you want to comment on an issue, a better way to word your disagreement is, “I disagree with the candidate’s position on _____because of_____.”
Others may ask these questions to draw you into a political discussion, Pachter said.
"Remember you don’t have to answer every question asked of you. Quickly excuse yourself or change the topic. You can also be assertive and politely tell the person, “I’m uncomfortable discussing this at work. Let’s get back to business.”
Nice advice. But tough to follow in a newsroom!