People dig into their political views like an underwater pipeline entrenched on the ocean floor. Agreeing or disagreeing with their perspective can make for an awkward conversation at best and a heated debate at worst. Therefore, avoiding politics in business and business writing is the best option. And it’s essential to learn how to respond when confronted.
Why Avoid Politics in Business Writing?
No one wants to work in a toxic environment. And bringing politics into the realm of business communication can needlessly offend workmates, clients, or vendors. Therefore, learning how to keep politics out of the workplace and written correspondence is fundamental to keeping the peace at work.
How to Respond and When to Say Nothing at All
There’s a time to respond and a time to keep quiet. And when you do respond, you will want to choose wording that is respectful and appropriate. The right response will either add fuel to the fire or put out the flames.
Therefore, you must learn the tricks of the trade in avoiding politics in business writing. There are three key ways to do so: (1) Ignore and refuse to engage; (2) deflect the attention off from yourself; and (3) redirect the conversation.
Politics can be introduced in a variety of ways. A coworker emails asking what you thought of the heated debate on TV last night, or a client asks for your support for a particular cause. In these instances, the best option may be to ignore the comment and refuse to engage.
Before you decide to address something they said that you find disagreeable or controversial, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I really need to give my opinion on this subject?
- Is the other person merely airing their frustrations about the current political climate?
- Does this question really merit an answer? Or can I simply ignore it?
Deflect the Attention Off You
You can’t always play the part of an ostrich. There will be times when you are expected or required to give a response. Now is the time to employ the art of deflecting.
Deflecting involves turning the other person away from a position they are hyperfocused on. Your goal is to take the attention off of your response and deflect their focus. For example, a coworker asks:
“What is your stand on this? We need everyone in the department to be on the same page. Can we count on you to vote with us?”
You could reply in a friendly email:
“Thanks for asking for my opinion. However, I think what would be most beneficial for the company is that we each continue contributing our best work ensuring that the department maintains a steady course in reaching our quarterly goal.”
Or you might be continually harassed by coworkers regarding your refusal to take sides in office politics. Your attempts to kindly explain your neutral stand have fallen on deaf ears. So, your next move might be a thoughtfully crafted email (and bcc it to a supervisor or HR if needed). For example:
“I appreciate our company’s culture of exchanging ideas and thoughts in a respectful atmosphere. I know we both agree that sharing views with others is a fundamental right. And it should be done in a manner that adheres to high standards of professionalism and common courtesy. I respect your dignity, and I would ask that you do the same for me. I would never suppress my coworkers’ conversations, including those about politics. Still, I would ask for the same respect; it is my right not to take sides or get involved in any political conversation.”
Redirect the Conversation
Redirecting means you steer the conversation in another direction. You get the person to think about something else. For example, you receive this email from a valued client:
“My wife is running for the Senate. We hope we can count on your company’s support in votes.”
You could respond:
“While our company’s policy continues to be that of respecting our employees’ individual rights to maintain neutrality in elections, it is certainly commendable when a citizen—such as your wife—steps up to serve on behalf of others.”
Internal Memos and Reports
You are asked to write an annual report or develop a business strategy. Doing so may require that you peek into the political landscape forecast to make projections or recommendations. While acknowledging the current state of affairs and how it pertains to your business, resist any tendency to add your political preference.
Make sure your report or memo is unbiased and accurately portrays current events. For example:
“The projections for the next fiscal year have taken into account the current political situation of ___________ and how it may affect our distribution. However, regardless of which way the House votes, I have outlined the best plan of action that our company can take to continue seeing an increase in revenue.”
If you are forwarded jokes of a political or inappropriate nature, you have the right to let the sender know you do not appreciate that type of humor. Kindly and firmly ask them to refrain from doing so. For example:
I am following up on our last correspondence. I need to address something you said in your email. You attached a joke about the President. Although I am sure your intentions were simply to get a laugh, I find jokes or stories that are derogatory in nature to be offensive and inappropriate. I would appreciate it if you would not send me something like that again.
Thank you for your consideration, and I hope you have a great weekend with your family.
Mixing politics and business in the workplace often leads to trouble. Happily, you can avert disaster by learning how to keep politics out of your business writing and communication.