What to do when your co-workers just won't stop talking about politics.
So much is going on in our world right now. It’s natural for people to want to talk about it, including people at work. It may even seem that many workplace conversations are more about election news and “Brexit” than actual work.
However, all this turmoil can also be a problem. Perhaps you sincerely prefer to focus on your work. Perhaps you are the only conservative in a nest of liberals, or vice versa. Or perhaps you simply want to keep your job — the place where you spend the majority of your waking hours — a politics-free zone.
Indeed, political disagreements can poison relationships and even careers, which is why some employers forbid discussing politics altogether. But, as you know, passions are running high nowadays, and there are those who can’t seem to help themselves.
So what should you do when colleagues won’t stop going on and on about the latest tweet, poll or debate?
First, try handling them the way you would handle all overly talkative co-workers. Listen for a minute, smile, and then say, “Hey, I am just super busy right now. Gotta go!” If they persist you might explain, “You know. I’m not a very chatty person. I need space to focus on my work.” This way you’ve made it about you, not them.
You could also try headphones. If your workplace permits it, get yourself a pair of noise-canceling headphones (the bigger the better, as people may not notice earbuds) and slap them on the minute you hear the words “nomination” or “primary.” Or consider taking yourself and your workload into a private meeting room for a while.
If all that doesn’t work, give this a try: The next time Politics Paul (or Paula) invades your workspace with the latest rant about you-know-what, say, “Wow. That’s interesting. I’m really glad you’ve stopped by. I’m working on [name of project] and need to have [a specific task, preferably an onerous one] done by the end of the day. Would you be willing to help me out?”
With any luck, you’ll be able to offload some of your scut work. Most likely, though, your co-worker will suddenly find that he or she has pressing business elsewhere.
And you will find some peace and quiet.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.