Don’t ask your co-workers who they’re voting for, they won’t tell you

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Election Day is finally in sight. After all the debates, commercials with approved messages, polls and endless graphs showing momentum shifting, it’s almost over. We’re about to go back to a world where states not named Ohio are once again important.

But for all the barrage of election news, people don’t plan to bring their politics into the workplace. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, 66 percent of workers don’t share their political affiliation at work. In fact, 28 percent of workers believe they need to keep their political leanings a secret while at the office.

Perhaps surprisingly, despite the fact that the pundits have said this election is all about the economy, workers aren’t necessarily making the same correlation. Only 52 percent of surveyed workers believe the president has an actual effect on the unemployment rate.

That’s not to say that workers aren’t politically active. Eighty-two percent of surveyed workers plan to vote in November, they just won’t be wearing their political beliefs on their sleeves — or on their cubicle walls. An overwhelming 98 percent of surveyed workers don’t display any campaign items or decorations in their workspace.

Why workers are mum on politics
Workers who keep their political leanings to themselves tend do so out of office etiquette. Sixty-eight percent of these tightlipped workers believe political affiliations should only be discussed at work if they affect their job. However, 13 percent of these workers choose to keep their politics private, because they believe their co-workers mostly support the opposing party.

“It is easy for a conversation about politics in the office to become an argument about politics,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “For the most part, people want to avoid controversy in the office as much as possible.”

Who’s talking, who’s not
Although most workers won’t be handing out campaign buttons in the lunch room, some aren’t afraid to let their political flags fly. Some workers are more vocal than others.

  • Thirty-seven percent of men share their political leanings.
  • Thirty-one percent of women share their political affiliations.
  • Twenty-one percent of workers ages 18 to 24 share their political opinions at work.
  • Twenty-nine percent of workers ages 25 to 34 aren’t afraid to be political while on the clock.
  • Thirty-six percent of workers 35 or older discuss their political affiliation.

The do’s and don’ts of political discussion
1. Keep it factual. If cable news has taught us anything, it’s that data can be twisted to support anyone’s office. Turn on the TV when the monthly unemployment numbers are released, and you’ll find analysts using the same numbers to tell wildly different stories. Don’t get caught up in a discussion and distort facts or exaggerate examples when talking politics with a co-worker. It will only escalate.

2. Be observant. People are passionate about politics, and that might mean they go from calm to angry in a matter of seconds. Watch his body language to see if your once-friendly conversation has caused your co-worker to get defensive or angry. If your amiable co-worker is as red in the face as Bill O’Reilly or Chris Matthews, you should both probably walk away.

3. Find a common ground: Remember that, despite political differences, people have a vested interest in politics, because they care deeply about specific issues or the direction of the country. You might not agree with your cubicle neighbor, but you both want the best for everybody. Remind yourself of that before your discussion turns into a serious conflict.

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