They say never discuss politics at work, but honestly who hasn’t been discussing this election? During lunch my co-workers come together like cast members of “The View” to talk about everything that happens in current events and pop culture. These conversations reveal differing opinions and side-eyes abound. How do you chip in on Becky’s birthday surprise lunch when she expressed that she is a Trump supporter and you were #TeamHillary? I have a couple of ways to help you navigate office politics that won’t involve a trip to HR.
No, I didn’t say wait for the other person to stop talking so you can begin again. I said to listen. A lot of times we begin to tune the person that is talking out once we realize they don’t agree with us. We miss key points when we decide that because a person doesn’t think like us they don’t deserve to be heard. So what do we do?
Tune out half of what they say and then jump in when a certain word or phrase is used and begin to make our point. We all are guilty of doing this…you don’t think you do it? Has anyone in your life that you disagreed with ever said, “I didn’t say that” or “You’re not listening to me” or “If you would just let me finish”. Next time you’re at lunch and you are in a heated discussion listen first and then BAUCE up and hit them with your side. Remember there is a big difference between arguing, debating and discussing.
Keep an open mind.
This should go without saying, but there are so many close-minded people who believe they are open-minded. Having an open mind is not a statement you make to sound cool or impress your boss. Having an open mind means being honest with yourself enough to know that you don’t know everything and you are open to learning something new.
As people we often become stuck in our ways. We assume that habits are rituals that we perform daily, we also have habits when it comes to thinking a certain way or believing something without considering other viewpoints. Hot topics at work are perfect opportunities to keep an open mind and consider someone else’s views. I didn’t say you have to agree, but be open enough to hear a different version of “the truth”.
Choose your battles wisely.
Sometimes it’s easier to just walk away. You don’t always have to sit and go back and forth. It’s actually quite alright to remove yourself from a situation before it goes too far. Some topics we are simply too passionate about because it’s personal. No matter how many ways you argue your point and bring Wikipedia in to back you up, someone will still disagree. You will be red with anger and at 1 PM go back to your seat still ticked off from a disagreement that happened at 12 PM. Now your entire day is blown all because of a discussion at lunch; don’t let a person’s opinion dictate your work day.
After the elections I dodged people like they were the plague. I had yet to sort my feelings out so I didn’t want to get into a discussion that could negatively affect my day. It’s okay so say, “Not today, Satan…. Not today!”
Don’t let it slide.
I know I just told you to choose your battles wisely, but whenever you are ready to join the lunch crew again make sure you don’t let inappropriate comments slide. There is always going to be that one co-worker who makes an inappropriate joke or comment and thinks that because he or she didn’t mean it like that you should be able to laugh it off. My personal belief is if it offends then it doesn’t need to be excused. If the joke or comment made you cringe or shift in your seat uncomfortably then you should speak up and say something. Don’t allow things to slide because you don’t want to be “that co-worker.” BAUCES know how to speak up for themselves even when it’s inconvenient to other people.
If you really want to understand where a person is coming from, ask questions. It sounds very simple, but it’s rarely done when discussing a hot topic at work. When you ask someone a question about their beliefs and opinions, you are showing them that you are genuinely interested in learning about who they are. That one small act of asking a question and not arguing your point changes the energy surrounding the discussion. You may very well still disagree with everything your co-worker has said but you won’t feel like you just went ten rounds in the ring once lunch is over. Asking questions also prevents you from jumping to conclusions and assuming…and we all know the golden rule about those who assume.
See the good in the person.
Some of you have worked with the same people for years. You have been with them before they got married and had children. You went to happy hours with each other and helped plan work baby showers. You have laughed with each other and at times cried on your co-worker’s shoulders. Now, I am not saying because you can time-hop pictures you have to agree with your co-workers. What I am saying is that we all have to see each other as people, respect each other, and accept that our differences are what makes us unique.
We won’t always agree — sometimes the heated topic at lunch will be about the leader of the free world and other times the topic will be if Beyoncé is really talented or overrated (yes, I still side-eye my co-worker every time she says that Beyoncé can’t sing). But we have to learn how to navigate through our differences so they won’t negatively affect our work and stunt our personal growth.