One Word On Political Discussions At Work: Shhh

by Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP

During this season of elections, including the ABA Blawg 100 list (OK, OK, I'm sorry! Today is the last day to vote for Employment & Labor Insider! Please? Thank you!), it seems to be a good time to talk about political discussions in the workplace. It's also on my mind because I was interviewed about that subject this week for an article that will appear in a soon-to-be published edition of Entrepreneur Magazine.

And I noticed that Cynical Girl Laurie Ruettiman had a post up about it earlier this week. My first reaction to Laurie's post was, Darn! She beat me to it! My second reaction was, Wow! Laurie and I are diametrically opposed! I'm all "discretion is the better part of valor," and she's all "free and robust debate [is] so essential to the proper functioning of our system of government."

But after I read her post I decided that, deep down, she really agrees with me and, in fact, has proven my point, along with her commenters.

Political discussions are great (in theory), and we learn from them (in theory). But it's just as true that a lot of people have their minds not only made up but also deeply entrenched. And they're emotional about it.

I'm not just saying "other" people are like this. "I" am like this, too.

Unfortunately, our society is on opposite sides of a chasm, with no way across. Like Democrat to Republican, or vice versa.

Was it ever thus?

Maybe it's always been this way. I'm reading a biography of Abraham Lincoln* right now, and it sure seemed to have been that way during his time. Probably much worse than now. At least in our time, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's talk about secession didn't go very far.

*Really good book, by the way. Not a paid endorsement.


"You think you got troubles? I'll give you troubles!"

The point is, if you feel very strongly that you are right, then you are probably going to have a tough time engaging in "civil discourse" with someone who thinks you are full of baloney, or Satan. And vice versa.

Game, set, match

Here's how Laurie proves my point. She says political debate is swell, but then in the next breath she says one should immediately terminate the conversation in the event of "racist, sexist, or homophobic" talk. I'm like, well, of course. But then I'm like -- uh, just a minute, could I please have a little clarification? What exactly do you consider "racist, sexist, or homophobic"? Those categories could potentially encompass a lot of political issues, especially when on her video Laurie adds "code words" to her list of taboos. (Laurie, please read my post from last week about the word "monkey.") One of her commenters implies that it's homophobic to think that it's ok to eat at Chick Fil-A. And Laurie seems to agree!

ChickFilA-ChickenSandwich.jpgIs this sandwich inappropriate?

Laurie and her commenters have very strong views about some certain stuff. A lot of people agree with them. A lot of people don't. "And never the twain shall meet." I suspect that Chick-Fil-A defenders on Laurie's blog might not feel very welcome to engage in "free and robust debate so essential to the proper functioning of our system of government." Presumably, that is why I didn't see any comments sticking up for Chick-Fil-A or disagreeing with Laurie in any material respect.

So. Back to political talk in the workplace. I'm a woman of one word: Shhh. If you know that you and co-worker Zelda agree on absolutely everything except whether Mitt Romney loves Ann more than Paul Ryan loves his mom, then fine. Talk politics with Zelda. You'll be ok, notwithstanding this minor point of disagreement. If you and co-worker Marvin disagree only as to whether Michelle Obama or Hillary Clinton is/was the greatest first lady ever in the history of the universe, then ditto.

But if you were watching the GOP convention and shouting "Yesssssss!" to every line and tweeting pictures of empty chairs, then don't even try to talk politics with the co-worker who thinks Sandra Fluke is the glorious future of American womanhood. Not only will you never agree, but you in all likelihood will also never be able to have a civilized conversation about your differences. You are too far apart.

This election will be over in two months (not! nearly! soon! enough!), and you, and Zelda, and Marvin have many more years to work and put your hard-earned money into our almost-bankrupt Social Security system before that Paul Ryan lookalike dude pushes your wheelchair over the cliff. (Kidding!) Meanwhile, you, Zelda, and Marvin have to see each other every day and get along. The best way to have a long and prosperous working relationship is to keep your controversial views to yourself. You can always vent with (at?) your family and friends, or Sean Hannity or Keith Olbermann, as the case may be, or on the internet.


After biting his tongue all day at the office, Puff can't wait to enter the No-Spin Zone.

By the way, did I mention that there aren't any First Amendment rights in the private sector workplace? There aren't.

Many thanks to Stephanie Thomas of The Proactive Employer for including me in her webcast panel yesterday, in which we answered "bizarre HR questions." Stephanie had some doozies, and I was honored to be on the panel with excellent fellow bloggers Jon Hyman, Eric Meyer, and Phil Miles. If you missed the live program, you can listen to it at your convenience by going to her website and clicking the "listen on-demand" link. Because of some technical difficulties, I wasn't able to get onto the webcast until about the 20-minute point, but once I got on, they couldn't shut me up. You've been warned.

Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons (public domain).


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP

Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.