Peter has been recently promoted to a new role at work. He meets his new manager and through the course of the conversation, realizes that his manager harbours extremely strong religious opinions which Peter strongly disagrees with. He now feels uncomfortable about working with his new manager. Should Peter’s personal views affect his professional choices?

84% of employees in the US have claimed to discuss politics in the workplace. Many of us find ourselves in situations where we need to work with people whose political and personal opinions differ from ours. However, how easy or comfortable is it to work with someone whose opinions diverge from your own or go against your moral values?

Situations like this could be annoying and even confusing. Here are some ways you could navigate them better:

Lead by example

To take the initiative and constructively engage in such sensitive situations, have open and healthy conversations rooted in a willingness to understand an opposing point of view.  However, in cases where someone publically makes a hurtful comment that is antithetical to the values of the company, Emily Gregory, vice-president at a leadership training company, recommends that managers call out the remark as inappropriate. This could pave the way for healthier discourse within your place of work.

Learn better, learn more

Nearly 48% of adults in America admit that they “often” get their news from social media, and this trend is on the upswing. Since social media algorithms are often designed to create confirmation biases (and might increase the spread of fake news), take an extra step to make sure the opinions you form are based on facts. Besides, using credible sources of information while discussing divergent viewpoints can lead to more dignified and meaningful debates with your colleagues.

Pause before assigning importance

Sometimes, despite engaging in conversations to widen perspectives or calling out discrimination, you might not be able to clear the air or settle differences of opinion. In such cases, take a step back to assess how important the issue is to you.  Do you wish to stand up for this cause even if it affects your professional growth? Or do you need more time to develop your perspectives on this topic, before taking action?

Define boundaries, and stick to them

Your firm has certain values that hold it together, and these values can help you and the management define the ground rules that all employees must observe when engaging with their peers about differing political views. For instance, some organizations might request that the workforce does not engage in political conversations at all in professional settings, while some others might want everyone to be restrained about their political views. Stick to these mandates and help your colleagues exercise caution and maturity when conversations start treading on tricky ground.

 The workplace brings many situations where the lines between your professional and personal lives could start to blur. Navigating them is a constant work in progress which requires courage and compassion. Those of us who are in a similar situation as Peter could heed the words of Winston Churchill, who said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

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