With the election only a few months away, chances are cubicle conversations may steer toward politics. While it’s tempting to weigh in with your views on the election, don’t. Politics is one of three taboo topics that can hurt your career. The other two: sex and religion. Before you make the potentially career-endangering mistake, here is why you should stay away from all three topics in the workplace.
In case you haven’t noticed the country is more divided than ever when it comes to politics. Whether you fall on the left or on the right doesn’t matter, what does matter is that you keep your affiliation to yourself during working hours.
You won’t get fired because you are talking politics, but it can hurt your relationships with your co-workers and worse yet your boss if you let it be known that you are a huge Rush Limbaugh fan or a founding member of MoveOn.Org, says Andrew Hally, vice president of product and marketing at Bullhorn, which makes recruiting software. “If it comes out that one person is a very passionate believer from one end of the spectrum and another is a passionate believer on the other end of the spectrum they can have a hard time working with each other,” says Hally. Those same co-workers may have gotten along famously beforehand but once their political leanings are known, it could wreak havoc on the relationship and thus productivity, especially if the two are part of a team.
If you make your beliefs known to your boss and your boss doesn’t agree that can sour a relationship, creating an environment where you may get passed up for promotions or may not get any more responsibilities. “When there’s a big difference and all of a sudden it becomes known, it can be a problem of trust and how a boss thinks about an employee,” says Hally.
Of the three taboo topics, sex by far is the most volatile not only because people should know better but because there are a lot of laws on the books regarding sexual harassment, says Dan Andrews, the Human Resources Manager for Allison+Partners, an international communications firm. While you may think everyone in this day and age knows better than to bring up sex at work, especially since most companies require you to sit through hours of harassment training, it’s still a popular topic and one that can quickly get you in trouble. “Sex is everywhere and is explicitly brought into the offices because of social media,” says Hally. “It’s much more part of the conversations than it used to be a decade ago.”
Even though it is so pervasive, Andrews says it’s definitely a topic you should refrain from engaging in with co-workers, underlining or anyone else in the office for that matter. “Don’t ever talk about it in the workplace,” says Andrews. “Where it gets tricky is with the language people use.” In some industries it’s ok to use “salty” language while in other industries it will be considered extremely offensive. The best offense: steer clear of any topic that remotely has anything to do with sex.
We live in a melting pot of ethnicities, beliefs and religions. The office isn’t the place to get into a raging debate over Judaism versus Buddhism or try to convert someone to your way of thinking. Just like announcing your political affiliation can change people’s opinion about you, trying to change someone’s beliefs or discuss religion can have the same effect. “Those topics that are led by passion are hard to put back,” says Hally. “That’s why mom told us never to talk about politics, sex and religion.” Not only can talk about religion offend somebody but it can also get you in trouble if you appear to be harassing or discriminating against someone based on their religious beliefs. “When talking with people with differing belief systems you’re not going to convince anyone to come over to your side,” adds Andrews. “People have the tendency to avoid it because they know how volatile it becomes.”
If you do find yourself in a situation where those conversations move to politics, sex or religion, career experts say to avoid it at all costs. It’s almost a situation where you should run not walk away from the conversation.