There are superficial solutions, and then there are deeper options you could pursue.
Q: I’ve been Facebook friends with a co-worker for a few years now; it’s been nice to know a little more about each other outside of work. In the past several months, though, she’s been posting a lot of political stuff that I disagree with, and it’s uncomfortable for me at work now. What should I do? —Dyan, systems analyst
A: There are superficial solutions, and then there are deeper options you could pursue.
The simplest thing is to just unfollow her on Facebook.
You won’t see her everyday posts, but she won’t see a notice that you are not following her so there won’t be any direct conflict that you trigger.
If she refers to something she posts about her family (or some other topic you would have liked to have seen), you can just say, “guess I missed that one” and ask her to tell you about it.
However, since your political disagreement is carrying over to your comfort with her at work, I have a hunch that this might not be sufficient.
So, what is your desired outcome?
Do you think she should agree with you?
Do you wish you didn’t work together anymore?
Do you just want things to be back to where they were when you didn’t know you disagreed?
There’s not a lot you control there, unless you go on the job market.
On the other hand, maybe you are interested in facing your discomfort and finding a way to work through it. Growth requires stretching, which typically is not a comfortable thing. It is, however, very rewarding.
In this case, start by looking inward. What do you believe and where did your beliefs come from? In what ways do they conflict with your co-worker’s opinions?
If you are feeling defensive, take some deep breaths and examine why.
Writing is a good tool, especially some free-flowing journaling to help you uncover your thoughts. Or try a technique called mind mapping. You can find information by searching online.
Perhaps you find that you are intrigued and interested in learning more. To maintain workplace equilibrium, you may want to seek out articles, books or websites that you can learn from, rather than discussing with her right away.
On the other hand, you may find that her beliefs are actually morally offensive to you. In this case, no one said you have to be friends with your co-workers. Unfriend her and move on.
However, you do have an obligation to be civil at the workplace.
You do have a responsibility to separate your personal feelings from your professional responsibilities. Because this is your problem to manage, not hers (unless there is behavior that is illegal, but that’s another matter).
In most cases you can do this by limiting your contact. Don’t seek out her company at work. If you are in a habit of having coffee together, cut back. Keep your interactions focused on work tasks instead of personal matters. Then in the future, think carefully before you blend your work life into your social media world.
Set boundaries for how much interaction you want so that you avoid these problems in the future.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.