How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

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How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by eselle28 on Sun Oct 30, 2016 9:25 pm

I'm stuck training someone new at work. This was her second day. Her first went fine, and most of our interaction was focused around talking about the job and exchanging a few basic biographical details. Today, she was more comfortable, and talked about her family, her pets, and her interests, as people generally do when they loosen up. She also claimed (during a story about a coworker catching a shoplifter) that there were probably more people stealing these days after eight years of the Obama presidency making people feel more entitled, mentioned (following a comment that the store had too much clearance on hand) that Donald Trump knew the truth about the US doing horribly in trade deals with other countries, and ranted (seemingly without provocation) that she didn't think Hillary Clinton would face justice for her many wrongs but would surely have some things to answer for in the life after this one. 

I reacted to her Hillary rant by saying, "Oh, goodness! We're talking about politics?" in an attempt at an incredulous tone. I ignored her other two comments and tried to steer the conversation back to the work-related subjects. She didn't seem to get either message. At least two coworkers were annoyed by her, but at least one agreed with her and had a vigorous discussion about the same topics while they took their break together. We don't have HR on site. I wouldn't be surprised if the store manager is a Republican. I'd really rather attempt to address the subject personally with her in any case. I've already rejected the idea of doing nothing at all, at least if she doesn't stop the comments or quit/get fired immediately. My shift was only seven hours today, and I feel like I've worked fourteen or so.

My thought for a script was this:

*squirms visibly*

You know, I'm really uncomfortable talking about politics at work. It's just not my thing. Could we stick to dogs and baking when I'm around?

Does this seem like it would work without being overly alienating? Might there be a better way of saying it? Do I have a duty to do more, either to warn her that the store may or may not frown on open discussion of politics around customers or to let her know I find her beliefs disagreeable? For whatever it's worth, while I talk about politics a lot here, the script actually is true and can be backed up by a coworker who asked me a few weeks ago who I was voting for and saw how uncomfortable the question made me (that other woman hasn't ever spoken about politics before, apologized when she saw it made me awkward, and said she was just making conversation as she didn't follow politics at all and figured that I might find them interesting - so no problems with her).
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by Enail on Sun Oct 30, 2016 9:44 pm

That sounds like a really great way to handle it, especially since you've got a track record to back that up already.

This doesn't sound like a case where you could do any good by letting her know you find her beliefs disagreeable, unless she says something outright racist or the like. And unless you have reason to believe that this store specifically has strong reactions to employees talking politics, I think that falls more into the category of general good sense that she needs to figure out for herself rather than something that you could usefully give advice on.

ETA: I do fear there's a fair chance that no matter how you handle it, she'll keep talking politics. IME, people who get into it that much that quickly tend to be pretty unshutuppable.
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by Werel on Sun Oct 30, 2016 9:58 pm

Yikes, sorry you got One of Those Coworkers dumped on your plate right before the election.

"Oh, goodness! We're talking about politics?" is just about the best reply I could imagine to that the first time it happens, so kudos for that. Incredulity that implies the other person has broken a serious social contract is often enough for people who are sharper with interpersonal cues. Sometimes, though, you'll find a Trump supporter person who doesn't get it, and you gotta bust out direct interdictions. I think yours is pretty well-phrased, and unlikely to be too alienating, especially if you make good on the last bit and have a dog video or cookie recipe ready to whip out and share.

eselle28 wrote: Do I have a duty to do more, either to warn her that the store may or may not frown on open discussion of politics around customers or to let her know I find her beliefs disagreeable?
I'd lean towards "no" and "definitely no." The former positions you as being in a place of authority over her, which you technically are, but odds are she's not the kind of person who'd take kindly to having this dynamic reinforced, or to being positioned as the "unprofessional one." The latter is just an invitation to sic her like-minded coworkers on you, or to interfere with your work out of political spite. Keeping it anodyne and blandly polite seems like your best bet, and I think your script works really well for that!

edit: Enail, I read "unshutuppable" as "unshtuppable," which is also completely accurate in this context Uh-oh
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by Wondering on Sun Oct 30, 2016 10:21 pm

I agree that you definitely shouldn't say that you find her views disagreeable. For the reasons Werel gives, and also given your area, I'm guessing you're probably outnumbered if she wants to have people get her back and sic them on you. Sad

I'm a bit more authoritarian, than Werel, though, and think that telling her it's not okay to have open discussions of politics at work is fine. You don't have to say it's store policy. Just that, in general, this is not cool. I said that to someone once who I was training but didn't technically outrank, and it worked for me, at least while I was around. I don't know if it would work here, though. That was general politics talk in my situation, and this is a pretty divisive election.

I do agree with Enail that she's probably not going to stop. So that's also why I'd lean toward the authoritarian response. I'd say start with the incredulous, and if that doesn't work, escalate to the unprofessional.

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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by reboot on Sun Oct 30, 2016 11:44 pm

I would mention as part of her training that political , religious and pretty much any controversial discussion is best kept out of the workplace. This is pretty much SOP for any public facing job where you never know who might happen to overhear and should come as no surprise
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by eselle28 on Tue Nov 08, 2016 10:58 pm

Thanks so much for the advice and the support everyone! I'm sorry I haven't checked back in for a week. I read and appreciated everyone's comments and really needed that little venting session.

After that, I had a couple of days off, and then when I returned, she was much quieter generally and didn't make any political comments. I wasn't sure if something had happened or if she'd just finally picked up that she wasn't getting positive responses. Turns out she actually got worse for a few days and was making remarks loudly and in front of customers and generally driving everyone nuts. One of my coworkers decided to speak to the manager, and the manager responded quickly and effectively (this is...uh...not necessarily what I've come to expect from management there, but to be fair we've never had this exact sort of situation happen before). Problem solved due to someone else being proactive!

The atmosphere election day was actually really positive. Due to some freak statistical outlier, everyone who worked today and who's eligible to vote in the US did actually go out and vote. I've never seen that happen before in a group of a dozen or so unrelated people. We also had multiple first-time voters on the staff, some who are experiencing their first election as adults and some who decided that this would be the election when they started voting. I'm one of those "voting is a civic duty and everyone should do it!" types, so I found sharing in their excitement to be a positive experience after what's otherwise been a very negative election year.  EDIT: Oh, and to be clear, this differed from the discussion above because people didn't get into who they were voting for. What happened today was people talking about election logistics of various poll sites and things like that, without specifying who they voted for.


Last edited by eselle28 on Tue Nov 08, 2016 11:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by Enail on Tue Nov 08, 2016 11:16 pm

Yay for management doing their job!
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by eselle28 on Mon Jan 09, 2017 11:05 pm

After a long, lovely lapse in her engaging in this behavior, I got stuck having lunch at the same time as she did, on a day when it was way too cold to hide in my car like I sometimes do. I didn't want to talk to anyone period at lunch. I wanted to have a half hour of relative peace and relaxation while I slurped my soup. I particularly didn't want to talk to her. I've made some real efforts to engage her on neutral subjects so that we can have a positive coworker relationship, but politics aren't the only problem. Her personality also rubs mine the wrong way, so interacting with her can be a bit draining, even when she's at her best. She wasn't at her best this afternoon.


Her: *complains about work*
Me: "Mmmmm..." *looks at phone*
Her: *more complaining*
Me: *leaves a pause, still looking at phone* "Oh, sorry! I'm just trying to look at some pictures of the Golden Globes while I eat lunch. I didn't watch them, but I like to look at the dresses."
Her: "You know, I think it's just terrible the way some of those people won't accept Trump."
Me: "Oh, wow! That's a really heated subject for the breakroom!"
Her: "Oh. Yeah. Sure...but really, things have just been getting worse. I think they're going to get better now. If not him, I don't know what will do it."
Me: ...
Her: "And at least that terrible woman won't be in office."
Me: ...
Her: "And I just don't know who those people think they are, pushing their views on other people who don't share them."
Me: *refrains from laughing at the blatant hypocrisy*
Me: "Coworker, you and I have different political views."



To her credit, she apologized and then changed the subject to pets, but man can that woman not take a hint.
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by Werel on Mon Jan 09, 2017 11:25 pm

Uuugghhh, thank goodness she finally got the hint. Sounds like you managed to handle it really diplomatically, too; fistbumps to you, at least, for work-appropriate conversational skills!
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by Enail on Mon Jan 09, 2017 11:31 pm

OMG, that sounds excruciating, and you're a superhero of tactfulness and non-engagement!  I wanted to beat my head against something just reading that, I can't imagine how you survived that without exploding.
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by eselle28 on Mon Jan 09, 2017 11:35 pm

I'm not sure the hint is going to stick around, but at least that was the end of that conversation for the lunch break. I think I'm going to start tossing a pair of headphones in my purse, though, at least until it warms up and I can go back to eating my lunch in my car or the park.

Thanks for the affirmation, guys! It's not the kind of conversation you exit feeling good about, so it's nice to hear.
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by eselle28 on Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:01 am

Today I rattled off these directions to a customer, "Men's room is back in the left corner, women's room is to the right, family bathroom's on the back wall." A few seconds later my least favorite coworker said super loudly, to no one in particular, "Some people have to be PC about everything."

I wasn't even trying to be inclusive in that sense, though in the future I will be. It's just easier, especially since a lot of the time the person is asking for their child rather than themselves. I decided just to roll my eyes this time.
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by Enail on Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:06 am

Ughhhh, I'm rolling my eyes on your behalf.
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by Wondering on Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:51 am

Wait, I don't get it. What's PC about what you said?

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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by eselle28 on Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:07 am

I think she thought it was weird that I told a woman where the men's bathroom was. Lately she's been focused on the way I phrase things in general.
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by Wondering on Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:38 am

So she's hyper focused on you and your behavior? Ugh. I've had people in my life like that. It's pretty stressful and draining. Sad

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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

Post by eselle28 on Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:55 am

No kidding, especially since she's just irritating as can be even when she's not focused on me. Thanks for listening to me vent a bit. Smile
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Re: How to ask my coworker to stop talking about politics?

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