Interpersonal Edge: When politics comes up at work, be curious, not judgmental
Sunday, August 21, 2016

By Dr. Daneen Skube

Tribune Media Services
  Q. People in my workplace are getting very polarized about the upcoming election and the two probable candidates, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Emotions seem to be running higher this year than in any election I can remember. There seem to be intense feelings on both sides. How can I navigate these conversations without alienating my coworkers? Why do people get so angry over these political differences?
  A. You can navigate these tricky conversations by realizing people aren’t just discussing politics. They are attaching a lot of emotional meaning to their political views and feel you are invalidating their entire value if you see the world differently.
  There’s a reason your mama told you not to discuss religion or politics at a dinner party. Most people tend to identify with their religious or political views as a central part of their identity. Most people feel if they don’t have their identity validated, they are being maliciously annihilated. We thus have intensity about religion and politics.
  When I do dream work with clients I ask them to imagine everyone in their dream as an aspect of themselves. My clients love identifying with the good guys. Identifying with the homicidal maniac, screaming crazy person or abusive character is not so easy for them.
  The truth is that we all contain the potential to be any of the devils or angels within the human imagination. We are capable of great good and great evil. We attempt to balance our weaknesses and our temptations to make good choices.
  A political race always brings up a polarity that is present within the collective unconscious. In the current race, will we pick the female candidate who is clearly imperfect, may be lying or is politically manipulative, or the male candidate who says he has all the answers, is a “winner,” and will supposedly build walls and keep us perfectly safe? What if these two candidates were both aspects of each of us? Challenge yourself to see if you can identify the purported strengths and weaknesses of both candidates within yourself?
  You can choose who you want to vote for or what you believe without losing your curiosity about how people at work think about these same topics. Instead of judging the candidates or your coworkers you could be curious about what these people mean to you and others.
  Whether Trump will keep us safe or Hillary will be effective remains to be seen as events unfold. When we vote, we have to make up what we think will happen next. Your coworkers are not just voting for individuals; they are also trying to figure out what matters to them.
  You may dislike Trump but still understand a coworker who wants a guarantee to end terrorism. You may not trust Hillary but understand your coworker who wants a female president.
  In and out of the workplace, but especially on hot topics, make an effort to express more curiosity and less judgment. As you learn about your coworkers’ priorities, you’ll also learn how to be effective with them. You won’t ever understand people if you are too busy judging whether they are right or wrong.
  Whatever happens with our elections this year, understanding your coworkers will give you the best chance of navigating your political situation in your workplace.
  The last word(s)
  Q. Is there one habit you encourage your private clients to develop that help them succeed at work?
  A. Yes, surround yourself with people way smarter than you, and cultivate the humility to learn from them!
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
Printed in the August 21, 2016 - September 3, 2016 edition

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