Talking Trump and Clinton in the Workplace – Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Neal Hartman

From The Huffington Post

Of course, you know the old adage: Don’t talk about religion and politics. But that’s difficult to avoid as we move into the final weeks of this turbulent election season. It’s natural to discuss the most recent presidential debate with co-workers with the opening line: “Can you believe what just happened?”

With partisan sentiments running high, however, such conversations can lead into stormy waters – if not outright hostility – and that can be counterproductive in the workplace. Modeling the third and final debate, for example, would itself be disrupting; you don’t want to talk over others, shout or slip in insults (“Such a nasty woman” and “You’re the puppet” comes to mind.) There are ways, however, to have political conversations without devolving into a shouting match.

We need to be careful that we – unlike perhaps Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — don’t let emotions get in the way of considered conversation – even if there is a lot of emotion going into the presidential race. For starters, focus on the issues. Instead of immediately jumping in and saying, “How could anyone vote for him/her?” try asking why the candidate deserves support. What do you think of so-and-so’s policy on X? How could that candidate be helpful for our business or our daily lives? Ask, “What do you think of Trump’s or Clinton’s economic plans, their positions on small business taxes or making college affordable.” The last debate actually created some useful fodder for this kind of give-and-take.

A civil exchange can be even more important for the group of people that are now the main focus of the election: The undecided. Imagine how much insight you might gain if, instead of telling them who to vote for, you ask them about the issue that most affects their lives. What will make them pick one candidate or another? What policies do they support?

Read the full article at The Huffington Post

Neal Hartman is a Senior Lecturer in Managerial Communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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