Q: When discussing certain topics with my colleagues I often find that I’m the odd person out. While I’ve tried to stay away from debating the usual hot topics such as politics or religion, the recent referendum and its consequences mean I’d have to play deaf, dumb and mute to dispel an office ambush. Should I speak up for myself, or keep the peace by staying quiet?Recent events have brought the topic of politics into water cooler conversations around the country. In the wake of the EU referendum, many of us feel the need to express our surprise and to discuss the professional and personal ramifications it may have. The vote will have a direct impact on many businesses, meaning that it’s a subject for discussion in the boardroom too, affecting strategy and HR, and even potentially leading to restructuring or relocation. The traditional advice, therefore – that politics is a conversation topic best avoided – hardly applies.
If the person to whom you are speaking becomes aggressive or rude, don’t be tempted to respond in kind, and try to keep your reasoning factual and neutral. If a conversation is becoming heated, it may be wisest to disengage altogether and suggest you revisit it at a later date. A straightforward approach may prove to be the least contentious, so don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues directly not to discuss sensitive topics at work. Your request doesn’t have to be stern or censorious: a light-hearted ‘do you mind if we change the subject?’ may just do the trick.