Q. I enjoy following politics. However, I have several colleagues who are very outspoken about their political beliefs and favorite candidates. I was brought up to believe you kept this information private. My mother would not even disclose how she voted to family. Why do workplaces not respect this as a private decision? I feel like I have to begin avoiding these colleagues when election talk really heats up. How do I voice my concerns without offending others? Some of my colleagues even circulate fund-raising literature or information about political events. I am not looking forward to the fall.
A. As a general rule, I recommend avoiding discussions about sex, religion, and politics in the workplace.
Discussing sex, in particular, can get employee and employer in hot water. There are laws to provide employees a harassment-free workplace. A comment may seem innocuous to one employee, but offensive to another. It is a subject best avoided.
Conversations around religion can also be dangerous. Some may feel excluded if there is a lot of discussion about one holiday or another.
Political discussions can be divisive. They can also take away from work time. I think it is acceptable to say to others, “I feel like my political beliefs and candidate choices are private. I would prefer not to share them. I also prefer not to talk about politics in the office.”
You have legitimate concerns. If you don’t speak up now, this behavior will only continue as we approach November. If this banter continues, I would raise the concern with your supervisor. Your concern might sound like this: “Mary, I don’t know if you have noticed it but it seems like there are lots of conversations about politics and the upcoming election. Frankly, I feel like these choices are personal, and the workplace is not a good venue to share them. Is there a way you can help me minimize these conversations?”
Your mother was a wise woman. My mother used to say to me, “I voted for the best candidate.”
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton.