Sex, Religion and Politics

Q: It is the season again. Every four years. We are
subjected to our CEO’s political opinions. He talks about issues
related to politics and then slowly begins to make voting
recommendations. He calls many of the candidates idiots, fools or
worse. We are all tired of it, even if we agree with him! He is not
changing anyone’s mind either. How do we handle this? It is annoying
and bordering unprofessional. 

A: Your concern may not be as rare as you might think. We hear this complaint every few years in this column!

There are some guidelines for what should not be discussed within the
workplace. The following areas are typically discouraged: sex, religion
and politics. Most people know that their private life should not be
discussed so few are so bold as to discuss sex in the workplace.
Religion can also create controversy and offend others. A discussion
about politics can be divisive and uncomfortable too.

However, your CEO should be modeling appropriate behavior, not
behaving in a way which makes others feel uncomfortable. Once in the
past we had someone print this column and leave it on the offender’s
desk with certain areas highlighted. Perhaps that would work. Or you
could also get the conversation back on track by adding a comment like:
“Hey Tom, are we talking politics or sales results today?” Some also
may feel comfortable by infusing humor into the situation, but that can
be a risk too because some people can be offended by humor. Depending
upon your relationship with your CEO, you could also talk to him
privately and explain that, although some of his points may be valid, it
is awkward to discuss his political beliefs in the workplace.

I am sure you are looking forward to the election, when hopefully
this topic will die down. However, it sounds like they may crop up
again during the next election cycle.

Good luck in addressing it. My hope is that a combination of these tactics may reduce the level of political discussion.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.