Politics in the Office? Ask Madeleine

democrat donkey and republican elephant butting headsDear Madeleine,

As you’ve probably noticed, the political situation in the US has gotten completely out of hand, with presidential candidates running amok. I don’t know what your political opinions are, but I am hoping you can help me with my untenable situation.

Both my boss and one of my direct reports are super, emphatically, enthusiastically—let us go so far as to say insanely—supporting one political candidate whom I find repugnant. In the past we have had witty repartee about politics, but nobody has a sense of humor about this anymore. It is beginning to feel personal; almost dangerous.

Yesterday, I was standing in the hallway and saw my boss pass my employee’s cubicle. They laughed about some new development and high-fived each other. My boss caught the look of horror on my face.

I am actually worried about my job now. What can I do?          

—Surrounded


Dear Surrounded,

Well, I guess it is too late to warn you to strap on your seat belt. We knew it would be a bumpy ride, but who saw this crazy fun house ride coming? On the other hand, I have been listening to the new musical Hamilton, which has drawn my attention to the fact that political opponents used to challenge each other to duels, which often ended in a death. Did you know that in 1804, US Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed US Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel? They had been lifelong friends and colleagues. I find this remarkable. So, as nutty as current affairs may feel, we have actually come a long way.

Are you really worried about your job? Because if you are serious, you should probably have a chat with HR and start documenting every event that makes you feel unsafe. You could have a hostile workplace on your hands. At the very least, HR could deliver a warning to your boss.

But to answer your question “What can I do?”—it is an age-old adage that you should never talk about politics or religion in polite social company. This is your opportunity to practice extreme self-regulation. This means:

  1. Keep your mouth shut.
  2. Find and maintain your sense of humor. Just because nobody else has one doesn’t mean you can’t.
  3. Absolutely refuse to take any of it personally. Develop a mantra—something like This is not personal—that you can repeat to yourself when you start feeling hot under the collar.

It’s hard to do this when you care as much as you obviously do. But taking the high road will make you feel like the better person. Perhaps you could channel all of that passion into volunteering for your candidate.

And for goodness’ sake, VOTE!

Love Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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