Political Duels at Work? Communication Expert Offers Nine Tips to Keep the Peace

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    (istockphoto)
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    Baylor communication expert Lacy McNamee, Ph.D. (Courtesy photo)
Jan. 29, 2016

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WACO, Texas (Feb. 1, 2016) — Sparring over immigration reform, ISIS and whether Trump should be in the White House can go quickly from casual to spirited to heated during water-cooler chats at work or in staff meetings.

The days of “Never discuss religion or politics in polite company” are gone, what with the increasing blurring of lines between our public and private lives — due in part to social media, said communication expert Lacy McNamee, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and researcher of dynamics within organizations.

While there are positives about openness, getting in a vocal free-for-all at work is not one. A toxic atmosphere can interfere with job duties, plus alienate co-workers or clients who overhear arguments.

McNamee offered these tips for keeping the peace about politics.

  • Remember that you while you are entitled to your opinions, you also are entitled to keep them to yourself.
  • Cliché or not, you can agree to disagree.
  • If staff meetings turn into a snarly spat about politics, bosses should steer back to work issues.
  • If you work for a nonprofit organization, realize that talking about politics at work can be sticky. When nonprofits seek government grants, they need the support of legislators — even if those legislators are not the ones they would vote for. Being too outspoken could work to your organization’s detriment.
  • Deflect arguments with what communication experts call “strategic ambiguity.” “This allows people to take a stand without being an advocate,” McNamee said. “One tactic is to invite people to share and talk. Interestingly, people who are very comfortable about talking may not ask what you think. We tend to be rather ego-centered, and others may assume we feel the same way they do.”
  • Be diplomatic. Scoring a “win” in a debate is not worth sacrificing a good relationship with a co-worker.
  • Use humor to de-escalate a discussion — and be certain that your quip is not done at someone else’s expense.
  • Direct the conversation to another topic.
  • Remember — your voice is more effective at the polls than in the office.
  • ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

    Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

    ABOUT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES

    The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines.

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