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Let’s Talk about Politics (Just Kidding … But, Not Really.)

Lead Star, October 12, 2020

Well.  We’re here.  We’re all living during an intense election season.  As leaders, it’s important for us all, regardless of our politics, to be aware of the dynamics currently at play. 
To set the stage, we’ve recently talked to a few of our colleagues who’ve been baited into political conversations at work that left them feeling unaccepted, misunderstood, and less included than ever before.  These conversations left these men and women questioning if their current place of employment was where they wanted to be for the long haul.  The sad thing is that before these conversations occurred, everything seemed to be going great.  But when you throw politics into the mix?  The emotions in the room get charged and the dynamics can change quickly. 
In light of the November election that’s right around the corner, we thought we’d offer you some workplace guidance on how to manage the inevitable political conversations that come your way:

  • First, Leaders Influence and Inspire.  Because someone thinks differently than you, don’t make them feel inferior.  Be curious as to why someone thinks the way they do if they offer their opinion.  Listening to learn is a great perspective to adopt – it’s better than talking to be right.  If you choose to engage, express your opinion – don’t disparage the other person’s.
  • Be Cautious Before You Initiate.  If you ask people, “Did you watch the debate last night?” know that you’re initiating a political conversation.  Don’t initiate if you know it’s going to bring up a heated exchange – it’s just not worth it.  No one wins.
  • Never Exaggerate or Use Hyperbole When Talking about Different Views.  When you talk about different viewpoints, avoid categorizing people into they or them boxes  no one likes to feel like they’re being stereotyped.  Also, don’t use phrases like never or always.  Exaggerations and hyperboles don’t make points – they often disregard the people you’re talking with.
  • Know When to Stop.  You can’t control the maturity of people around you … but you can always control you.  When things get heated or when you feel someone (maybe you?) might be disrespected, you can disengage.
  • Choose Not to Engage.  This is another choice within your arsenal.  You don’t have to say anything … or when people bring it up, you can be the person in the room to share, “Hey, I don’t think we all think the same on these views.  Maybe it’s best to not talk about it.”

We’ve said this many times before: We’re in a really, really strange time in our nation’s history.  With the pandemic, people are already stretched, stressed, and maxed.  Leaders lead with respect and empathy; empathy doesn’t mean you agree with someone.  It just recognizes that their opinion is true to them.  We think if we can all be more thoughtful in these coming weeks, we’ll lay the groundwork for the months and years to come.  

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