Research your company. For real. If you work for a major “corporate” entity, chances are they’ve got a mission statement of some sort. Find it, read it, and see what it leans toward. Most high-level employees will have to adhere (at least publically–more on this later) to any sort of ideology in said mission statement as it applies to most anything, especially politics. Nobody loves embarrassing his or her self in front of the boss, so see what you can find out about what the company wants him or her to say. Knowing the company’s history, focus, goals, and corporate mood can be a major advantage in knowing what buttons–and whose–to avoid when politics comes up.
Recon. Now, I realize that taking an ear to things right off the bat isn’t everyone’s style, and that’s all well and good. However, if you think you can stomach it, I advise to give it a go. Day-to-day conversations can yield some interesting information if you know what to listen for. Read or watch the news daily, at least enough to catch some of the major stories. Pay attention to which of those come up in passing around the office the next day. Catching when someone says, “Did you see that story…” can provide a wealth of information about that person’s interests, ideas, and convictions. Especially if they’re always talking about cat videos. They’re a hardliner.
So now you’re in the shi…stuff. You’ve been asked your thoughts on a recent State of the Union, let’s say. Nothing’s been said yet, and you’re the focus of several pairs of gazing eyes. Here goes. If you haven’t a clue, don’t act like you do. If you read the SOTU after, or caught the main points and are feeling confident enough to engage, by all means, do so. If you didn’t: DON’T SAY YOU DID. Ahem…apologies. Politics is one of, if not the, biggest areas where people will hold a conviction until the moment they die, and will defend it with tooth and nail. It would be unwise to enter a point/counterpoint when you are the counterpoint, have no idea what the point is going to be, and are prepared with the relevant knowledge to discuss exactly zero topics/subtopics/subsubtopics.
The proverbial dust has settled, nobody’s dying, and the lights are still on. The discussion went smoothly overall, and everyone is back to work. You feel a bit of tension with some co-workers, none with others, but everyone is being cordial and polite. No harm no foul. Here’s a few pointers for after. If the discussion is done, it’s done. To be clearer, there are two types of political discussions that can occur. The first is point-specific. It centers on one topic and one alone. There’s nothing else to say on the matter, and in a few days, it will be overshadowed by something else. The second is a more general, Republican vs. Democrat sort of thing. Know the difference between these two. When the first is put to bed, it’s put to bed. Bringing it up three days later usually won’t end politely. The second is a recurring theme, capable of being brought up again at a later date pending new information, a new trigger, etc. The first argument type is usually a tool for the second: obviously, points have to be made in any argument. Do your best to recognize the difference and treat events accordingly. Don’t hold grudges. The gentleman respects others opinions, regardless of his own. If Bill from accounting is an Ass, let him be an Ass. By “Ass,” I of course mean Democrat, not a figurative or literal– The important note here is that, again, you have to see certain people daily. Some of them for several hours straight. Don’t make things uncomfortable for yourself by yourself. If you felt that you presented yourself well and said what you needed to say, then that’s all that can be done. Despite some appearances, a discussion is a discussion, not a battle to the death. It can be intelligent, polite, and informative without ruining your week. The deciding factor? Your attitude.