For this campaign, consider your options carefully

  • Article by: LIZ REYER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 4, 2012 - 8:16 PM

QWhat do I do about a boss who is overbearing about her political opinions, and who seems to assume that I share her views? I don't want to confront her, but am really uncomfortable about it.

AAs you're experiencing, politics and work are not a good mix, and easing your dilemma will pose some challenges.

The inner game

To start, get centered, and let the awkwardness of your situation slip away. You may be feeling a range of emotions -- annoyance, anxiety, or anger -- and setting them aside will help you think through your options.

Now, think specifically about her behavior, identifying the settings in which she makes her comments, and noting the frequency and the audiences for her comments. Your options will be different if she makes her views known broadly versus just with you. Also notice her tone. If she has a strong emotional attachment to her comments, your best course of action will be different than if they are more off-hand comments.

Consider your reactions. Is your discomfort based on having any political discussions in the workplace, or on her assumption that you're in her camp? Also, you'll need to determine the effects of this discomfort. At worst, it could contribute to stress-related illness; at least, it'd be an unpleasant annoyance.

Assess the risks of addressing this situation, thinking of all the actions you could take and possible outcomes. For example, direct conversation with her could be a constructive air-clearing, or could lead to retaliation. Or it could have no impact, which would raise its own frustrations. Consider risks of other courses of action, as well, such as providing feedback to her boss.

Finally, examine how far you'd go to have this behavior out of your life. Would you change jobs over it, or continue to live with it if it doesn't change?

The outer game

Now it's time to choose options for action. Think about an "if ... then" decision tree. If you think talking with her directly is reasonable, then plan your approach. Find a neutral time to give her feedback, asking permission to share a comment. Try a message like, "For me, political discussions in the workplace are uncomfortable." Stay with I messages to avoid putting her on the defensive.

If talking with her seems too risky, then consider going to her boss. If others share your discomfort, you may be able to provide team feedback. However, if she only shares her views with you, then there are risks involved since comments from her boss may point back to you, looping back to the possibility of retaliation.

If you decide that the risks are too high, consider other ways to handle this. You may be able to avoid the situation to some extent, or find ways to use humor to laugh off her comments: "Oh no! Not politics again!!" But beware of trying to get yourself to accept the unacceptable -- you have the right to look out for yourself, whether that means raising the issue higher in the company or finding a new job, there or somewhere else.

The last word

Consider your options carefully and take appropriate action to ensure you have a positive work environment.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at liz@deliverchange.com.

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