How Talking Politics At Work Can Get You Fired

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The conventions are over, but the political banter won't end for months. Presidential elections stir up a lot of emotions, whether you side with the "red," the "blue" or if you consider yourself somewhere in the middle. If you're fired up, it's natural that you may want to talk politics at work. However, you should beware, because sharing your opinions at work may get you fired.%VIRTUAL-hiringNow-office%Susan Adams noted in Forbes that the Society for Human Resources reported 25 percent of employers maintained written policies on political activities; some of these restrict conversations about politics at work. Only a handful of states have laws that prohibit private employers from discriminating against workers because of their political activity.

Do you know your employer's written or unwritten policies? If not, and you have a tendency to think everyone is entitled to your opinion, now is probably a good time to take a close look at your employee handbook.

Even if your organization does not have a specific policy about discussing politics, is it a good idea to wear your political buttons, t-shirts and other paraphernalia to the office? Should you try to collect money for your favorite candidate or instigate a conversation about hot-button issues in the lunchroom? The safest answer to these questions is "No."


Why not?

1. You are not necessarily protected by the right to freedom of speech while at work, especially since your opinions may interfere with other people's rights to a non-hostile environment.
Even if you do not consider your opinions hostile, someone else in your office may. If that person files a grievance or complaint, the law would most likely be on the aggrieved party's side, and you may be out of luck -- or out of a job. Employers aren't interested in keeping people who cause trouble, so it would probably not be a difficult choice to fire you.


2. Higher-ups may discriminate against you based on your political biases.
Even if you work in an organization where everyone seems to agree, there is bound to be someone who is either annoyed (at best) or offended (at worst) by your opinions. You never know how this might come into play in the workplace. When you're passed over for a promotion or let go in the next layoff, it could be because someone in authority couldn't stand to hear any more of your political banter.


3. You may offend your colleagues -- the ones you rely on to have your back when you need help or coverage.
Just because people may not vocally disagree with you doesn't mean they aren't taking mental notes to be busy the next time you ask to switch days off with them or pick up the slack on a big project. One of your goals at work should be to grow your circle of allies; sharing your political beliefs is probably not the best way to accomplish that.


4. Getting too fired up may call your judgment into question.
Emotional intelligence, which includes how you manage yourself, your communication style and how you behave when agitated, is an important qualitative way you are assessed at work. If a heated political discussion almost drives you to blows, or you get so aggravated that you turn purple, people are likely to question your ability to handle important issues at work. If your job description involves negotiation or working with a diverse group of people, expect your passionate, one-sided political views to hurt your work reputation.

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