In the course of your career, you'll find yourself working with a variety of different personalities. Co-workers will come from different backgrounds than your own, and may have vastly different views on issues from politics to the environment to how to complete a certain project or task.
This is all part of what makes the world interesting, and in fact can drive innovation within a business. However it can be difficult when someone in a position of authority imposes views that you disagree with or even find offensive.
What do you do when your boss’ ideological standpoint doesn't match your own? Keep these tips in mind to keep the peace and stay professional without compromising your own code of ethics.
1. Avoid touchy subjects
Getting to know your colleagues interests outside of work can build camaraderie and help increase engagement and productivity. That said, if you know that your boss is a die-hard Republican and you're a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, you might want to stay away from issues like Obamacare. Whenever possible, keep it professional with work-related topics and light-hearted banter about travel plans or pop culture.
2. Affirm the opposite viewpoint
If your conversation does take a turn into the political, a good tactic is to begin your discussion by affirming your boss’ point of view. You can begin by saying that you disagree about the issue, but that you respect your boss’ willingness to stand by her values.
Acknowledging this respect can keep the conversation from getting too heated, and may make your boss more willing to listen to your own point of view. You can then look for an opportunity to steer the conversation on to a more neutral topic.
3. Watch your tone
You can have a spirited discussion with your boss, particularly if you both enjoy debate. But avoid getting frustrated or hostile. Tone can make all the difference in a disagreement. If you start sounding aggressive, the conversation can quickly degenerate.
Keep your tone neutral and calm, taking the time to listen to the opposite viewpoint even if you disagree. If you need to vent, do it later with your friends in private.
4. Take a time out
Are you starting to feel the heat of the conversation? Take a time out. Excuse yourself to get a cup of coffee or just take a walk around the block. Sometimes a breath of fresh air can help you cool down, and you'll be better equipped to handle the situation when you return.
5. Keep track of communication with your boss
You may be taking care to watch your tone and speak about the issues respectfully, but there's no guarantee that your boss will do the same. If your boss veers into inappropriate territory with rude or disrespectful comments, keep a written record of these remarks. If needed, seek out your HR business partner to address the issue.
6. Ask for help with conflict management
Finally, if you find that you are having a hard time seeing eye-to-eye with an opinionated boss, it may be time to get some outside assistance. Go to HR for a solution or suggest training in communication skills that could benefit the entire workplace.
Ideological differences are common in the workplace, but they don't have to bring business to a standstill or be a reason to quit your job. In fact, sharing your opinions could even make you a more valuable employee. Use conflict resolution skills and respect differences of opinion to have a worthwhile, productive conversation.