Look, he compared Obama to the antichrist...
April 17, 2009 2:59 PM   Subscribe

What do I do about my annoying coworker who talks conservative politics all the time?

So there's this guy at my office whom I can't stand. He talks all the time, is loud, ignorant, vaguely racist, and generally creepy. It's not just me, lots of people have expressed this opinion of him. I luckily don't have to actually work with him, but his desk is in shared office space close to mine and I can hear everything he says all day.

During the election, he started making the occasional anti-Obama comment. Since the election, he has increased the frequency and volume of his political talk. He complains about taxes and Obama and them stealing all our money, etc. He thinks Texas (where I am) should secede. He makes snarky comments about "that Obama" all the time. He will express these opinions to anybody who happens to be nearby, but especially white coworkers who aren't me. (I have an Obama bumper sticker on my car and that's the extent I get involved in political debate at work. )

In short, I'm sick of hearing his ill-informed talk radio opinions all the time. I'm a flaming liberal in a very Republican area and normally I'm ok with that. But this guy drives me nuts. I feel like it's impolite to express these kind of negative political opinions at work, same as it would be rude to tear down someone's religion.

What can/should I do? What would be the best way to approach him about it without starting a big thing? Should I even try?
posted by threeturtles to Work & Money (41 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've been in a similar situation. Unfortunately, I believe there is little that would change his behavior. Could you move your desk?
posted by R. Mutt at 3:02 PM on April 17, 2009

1. Invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.
2. Ask to be moved.
3. Have HR put out a "no political talk at work" memo.
4. Get a new job.
posted by aquafortis at 3:06 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could ask him to keep the work place politics-free. This, of course, means you have to avoid political discussions at work, too, but you're going to have a hard time avoiding the annoyance any other way. There will always be someone.
posted by katillathehun at 3:06 PM on April 17, 2009

I feel like it's impolite to express these kind of negative political opinions at work, same as it would be rude to tear down someone's religion.

Have you tried telling him this? If you can find a way to have a non-confrontational chat with him about this, it may help. If it doesn't help, it will give you more ammo for taking the issue to HR.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:08 PM on April 17, 2009

You can't get him to shut up. Engaging him will only give him a target for his rants--when he's reading Free Republic, he'll start taking notes for things to share with you. You could become a bigger loudmouth, arguing against him--I did it, but I'm pretty well read in politics, and was always armed to rebut something from my coworker. But this really isn't a good solution because then you'll both be annoying everyone else, and it'll mean becoming a left wing version of him.

Talk to your manager about it. Don't emphasize that you disagree with him. Present it as "I'd just like to do my job, and I don't want to have to listen to Rush Limbaugh in the next cubicle." Get several coworkers to say the same thing to your boss, presenting it as an interference with your daily duties, not a political disagreement. Best of all, get someone Republican to do it first, which obviously drains the political disagreement from the issue.

At bottom, you have an obnoxious coworker who's making your job unpleasant. Keep it on that level, and if you have a reasonable boss who can tell the loudmouth to talk less politics in the workplace, you might have something of a solution.
posted by fatbird at 3:10 PM on April 17, 2009

There's simply so way to shut him up. You should accept that now.

You can try to ignore him. That's the easiest thing in the long run. You can't control this guy but you can control how you react to him. Easier said than done perhaps, but it's all you can do.

Alternately, you could always try winding him up. If he's going to talk about secession, maybe bring up the topic of genocide for mexicans in texas. Or how he should blow up a hospital like Tim McVeigh. I don't know if that's going to get you fired, so use your judgment, but idiots who parrot this kind of shit are always fun to try to one-up because their actual knowledge of history or world affairs is so painfully limited. Ask him to compare and contrast the Texan secession movement with irish separatism and Quebec separatism. See if he actually knows anything beyond his biased views. Typically a few highly detailed questions about their belief system will shut people like that up. But I could be wrong, ymmv, etc. Maybe he's David freaking Frum and will get all policy-wonk on your ass. But then it's back to strategy 1 and you're no further behind.

But seriously, just ignore him. His existence and your emotions are two different things that it's within your control to keep separate.
posted by GuyZero at 3:11 PM on April 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Democracy requires and thrives on debate and disagreement. I think there is nothing to be gained by singling out someone whose political opinions you disagree with for special treatment -- and in fact, on a broader societal level, much to be lost. I would hate to be in a workplace full of very conservative folks and be told by HR that I wasn't allowed to express my leftist political ideologies because it made them uncomfortable. Not liking his opinions is not a reason to be protected from them. However, in a workplace, being distracted by a noisy coworker is something different.

The better approach is therefore to a) invest in headphones as mentioned above, or b) try and get some consensus in the office (through HR if you feel that is necessary) that is hard to work when everyone is talking loudly, regardless of the subject-matter, and see if you can just get him to quieten down.
posted by modernnomad at 3:12 PM on April 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Another vote for headphones or earplugs. There's no way to get some people to shut up, whether it's about politics or their adorable dogs/kids/cats, and the easiest way to not have to listen to them is to not be able to listen to them.
posted by rtha at 3:16 PM on April 17, 2009

At the risk of being obvious, have you or any of the coworkers you mention who share your opinion of this guy pulled him aside and said "Joe, could you please stop with the political talk? Everyone already knows exactly what you think of Obama"? It might be especially effective if the person to say this were someone who more or less shares his views--so that the issue isn't "You're conservative and therefore wrong," but rather "We're sick of this topic, please stop talking about it." A fellow conservative could even soften it with something like "Look, I agree with you, but..."
posted by Meg_Murry at 3:17 PM on April 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you don't want to confront him directly, you could sign up for an anonymous throwaway email account (e.g. gmail) and send him an email about it.

Disclaimer: I have no idea whether this would be effective.
posted by Flunkie at 3:20 PM on April 17, 2009

threeturtles, I sympathize with you, and have no doubt that this guy is just as obnoxious as you describe. (In fact, what part of Texas are you in?—He sounds like a relative of mine—the one who peppers us with sexist, jingoistic, and logic-free email forwards which I have learned to automatically delete before opening--) But seriously, since it is a free country, this guy is 100% allowed to be as ignorant as anybody else and to express his opinions, however uninformed they may be. If I were you (and, believe me, I’ve been there) I would keep my sanity by quietly cherishing the silver lining: This guy’s just pissed because our side won...BIGTIME.
posted by applemeat at 3:32 PM on April 17, 2009

[comment removed - we really don't need ironic racist statements to get why racism is bad - feel free to repost without the lulz]
posted by jessamyn at 3:59 PM on April 17, 2009

You could try the approach I use with certain members of my family on the opposite side of the political spectrum: stop taking him seriously and work to find some amusement in it. I particularly enjoy my unerring ability to predict the form, substance, and topic of certain family members' weekly rants. In fact, occasionally, before visits, I briefly scan conservative talk radio to arm myself with a few good guesses about the Outrageous Insult to America which I will be learning about today. If I guess correctly, I win a pint of ice cream, purchased by myself. :)
posted by artemisia at 3:59 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

"You know, Joe, I'm not interested in politics."
"That kind of negative talk really turns me off."
"I understand that that's your opinion, and to be blunt, I think I've heard enough of it for right now."
"Let's just agree to disagree."

Pick one and repeat it over and over whenever Joe stops to take a breath. The trick is to never engage but just keep repeating the "I'm not engaging" mantra over and over.

Or, the comedy option:

"WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA?" I love how all the people who were "Oh, criticizing Bush is treason!" are criticizing Obama to beat the band.

Or you could read some newspaper editorials from the 1860s, where people like Horace Greeley were routinely calling in veiled and not-so-veiled terms for the assassination of Lincoln.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:05 PM on April 17, 2009

The Southern solution, with which I am sure Texans are acquainted:

The next time dude starts frothing, just look at him, smile sweetly, and say, "Well bless your heart."

It won't stop him, but he'll know EXACTLY where you're coming from.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:05 PM on April 17, 2009 [12 favorites]

I really don't recommend bringing HR into this because it sounds to me (and maybe I'm wrong here) that what annoys you are his views and not so much him being loud or disruptive. A good lithmus test would be: Would you feel the same if he were saying things you agree with? You will have a tough time selling this to HR if you can't make the case he's guilty of anything besides being a republican. You need a specific complaint you can articulate that is not about your politics. Also, you say you are in a conservative area, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that the HR goons are less than sympathetic to your complaint, so I'd step lightly or it could go badly for you.

People lose a lot of perspective over politics. For that reason, I agree they shouldn't be in the workplace. But then there's the real world where you sometimes just have to put up with people's shit. I could go on and on about things people do in the office that irritate me -- talking on the phone too loudly, leaving their cellphone at their desk when they go out to lunch, snatching food from the break room fridge, bugging me at my cube when I'm working, and so on ad nauseum. We've drawn a few lines in the sand for unacceptable behavior in the workplace (sexual harassment, for example), and this just isn't one of them. I've never worked in a place where talking about politics was taboo, and I'm not sure I'd want to work in a totally HR-sanitized environment like that. While it might remove the current source of irritation, the broader problem is you have to start watching everything you say in case you break one of the rules.

I have someone like that in the office, I either engage him on his ridiculous views (which is always fun because he's horribly uninformed beyond the talking point of the week and easy to tie into logical knots) or put on some headphones if I'm not in the mood.

I guess this is a long-winded way of saying "grow some skin". Sorry about that, but there it is.
posted by cj_ at 4:21 PM on April 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can't you just ignore him and engage on specifically work-related topics? That's the way most of the world works.

If he is making racist comments, document (nature of the comment + date + time) and send in to HR.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:32 PM on April 17, 2009

Talk to HR or quit. Nothing else will work on this dude.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:52 PM on April 17, 2009

Put your feet on your desk and smile quietly to yourself knowing that we're going to have a black Democrat in the White House until Two-Thousand-Fucking-Twelve and there ain't shit your dumbass coworker can do about it. What you're hearing is part of the reward for winning.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:05 PM on April 17, 2009 [6 favorites]

A lot of this is great advice; I wanted to try a different take.

One of my rules of life is "There's a lesson in everything." And I wonder what's the lesson here.

One lesson could be how to befriend someone who has behavior that drives you nuts. Instead of trying to get this person to stop his behavior, we might try to find out why he's behaving this way. People sometimes ratchet up their behavior when they feel like they are not being heard. Perhaps he feels that way. Perhaps he's scared and angry and feels powerless. While I didn't exhibit your co-workers behavior, I know how he feels. I felt the same way under the Bush administration. I'm sure it was even worse for you in Texas.

You might ask yourself, "How could I be the best friend I could be to someone like this? How can I help someone who feels this way?" One thing you might do is to try a small charm offensive. Learn about your co-worker. Ask about his family, and his other hobbies. Say hi every day, smile at him in the hall, ask how his weekend was. Try to find some common ground.

Once you find yourself standing on common ground, you might broach the political talk somewhat. I wouldn't go straight in and ask him to change his behavior. Instead, I'd ask him why he engages in it. Something along the lines of "Hey, Joe Bob, I was noticing that you talk about politics a lot at work. Why is that?"

Engage in a little reflective listening. Start phrases with "So if I understand you correctly, you feel..." and the like. Learn the non-committal phrases like, "Hmmm. That's an interesting way to look at things." and "I've never thought about it that way before." You might find an opportunity to voice how you feel. You can laugh and say, "Well, we'll just have to disagree about *that* one." Maybe he'll feel heard and feel less scared or angry. So he won't have to go on as much.

Eventually, you might be able to laugh at Joe Bob about his talk show blathering. You might here him make some sort of far right point and you can laugh and say, "Sounds like you've been listening to Rush Limbaugh again Joe. I've got to get you hooked on Ed Schultz." Maybe he'll laugh too.

This is not a short term solution. It will take time, but it's good work. It honors Joe Bob's humanity, even if he's misguided. It may have no effect on Joe Bob's behavior, but your reactions to it may change. You may find that the best friend you can be to Joe Bob is not much of a friend at all, but at least you've made the effort. And, even if the situation is the same afterward, you may have learned some valuable skills.

Oh, another rule I have? "Learn to love everyone." This may be an opportunity for you. A way for you to grow, to learn things that will make you a better friend and partner and parent and child. There might be an important lesson here.

Best of luck.
posted by davidamann at 5:11 PM on April 17, 2009 [8 favorites]

"Learn to love everyone."

Oh, fuck that.

Some people are well worth hating.

Alternatively, talk to him about nothing but football. I hear they play that in Texas.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:22 PM on April 17, 2009 [5 favorites]

Short answer: Get some headphones and ignore him.

Longer answer: Although I don't recommend getting into non-work-related conversations with this person, I can tell you what has worked for me in the past in dealing with blowhards: Crush them intellectually, using facts and -- whenever possible -- literary and historical references. I also like deride the Republican Party's use of the word "conservative" to describe itself, when a majority of the stances it's taken over the past 30 years can easily be viewed as anti-conservative.

What blowhards hate most is having a real discussion, because they don't have the knowledge to back up their opinions. As long as you do, they will avoid you.*

Ex1: "Obama is the anti-Christ." Answer: "Well, Edmund Burke said that 'He who wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.' And really, who are we to argue with the father of conservatism." (Yeah, it's a little nonsensical, but I love throwing in a Burke quote and naming him as the father of conservatism. No blowhard will have any idea what your talking about, but will still not want to look stupid. End of conversation.)

Ex2: "This economic mess was caused by Clinton forcing banks to give loans to minorities." Answer: "Well, the CRA only applies to depository institutions, so it would be a stretch to blame it for more than 8% of the bad mortgages out there. But the real question is why the Republican Congress didn't fix this law when they amended it in 2005!" (The Limbaugh-parroting Republican will be afraid to get into it concerning the CRA, because they don't know anything about it. End of conversation.)

Ex3: "I'm tired of these damn liberal taking away money that I work for!" Answer: "I agree; that's why I think we should just vote to permanently adopt the tax structure as it was under Ronald Reagan. Of course, that would mean a 10% tax increase, but if it was good enough for the Gipper, it's good enough for me!" (Modern Republicans worship Reagan, but few of them really have any idea why. He'll probably start crying here. End of conversation.)

*I'm also somewhat immune from blowhard attacks because I consider myself a conservative, and therefore am vehemently anti-Republican. So while I voted for Obama, attacks against him don't really get under my skin. But stupidity does.
posted by coolguymichael at 5:32 PM on April 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yawn while he's talking.
posted by kldickson at 5:33 PM on April 17, 2009

It's an age old question, and it has a simple answer: talk about whatever you want to talk about. It's the easiest solution and it makes people like this furious. But if most of the co-workers are feeling the same way, they'll roll with you. Change the subject everytime.
posted by mannequito at 6:05 PM on April 17, 2009

All the above answers are correct; a reasonable, rationable response is the right thing.

Messing with his workspace or pc, even if it makes you laugh, is immature. As for sneaking an Obama sticker onto his car to see how long it takes him to notice, well that's just petty.

Funny though; and people like that hate being laughed at.
posted by BadMiker at 6:46 PM on April 17, 2009

I can tell you what has worked for me in the past in dealing with blowhards: Crush them intellectually, using facts and -- whenever possible -- literary and historical references. I also like deride the Republican Party's use of the word "conservative" to describe itself, when a majority of the stances it's taken over the past 30 years can easily be viewed as anti-conservative.

This never ever works. Never.

People on the extreme fringes of politics (both sides) do NOT want to debate. They want to lecture.

If he was talking to you directly I'd say change the subject. Find out what else he's interested in and use that.

Him: Obama is going to make it legal for Mexicans to murder DEA agents!
You: How do the Cowboys look this year? Think they got a shot?

However, it sounds like he is in earshot but not close enough that you are his focus so... earphones.
posted by Bonzai at 6:58 PM on April 17, 2009

Trying to argue with someone who is well-stocked with a whole host of right-wing talking points is just asking for trouble. If you're well-prepped. you'll start an unending argument - is this what you really want at work. If you're not as quick on your verbal feet as you think you are, you might end up looking stupid, is this what you want at work?

FWIW, I had a friend in a recreational group who was like this (but well informed) and eventually even though we had made a 'no politics' at the table rule, he kept it up because he wanted to 'discuss' with me, until I made it clear that I didn't. Now he barely talks to me. Hence the had.
posted by canine epigram at 7:20 PM on April 17, 2009

The next time he starts up just tell him that in stage coach days they had a rule that inflammatory talk about religion or politics was unwelcome in the confined space of the stagecoach as it caused tempers to flare and was generally impolite.
posted by Iron Rat at 7:32 PM on April 17, 2009

I had a coworker who drove me crazy for a long, long time. The foreman didn't (or wouldn't) do anything. This guy was well known for driving people over the edge in other parts of the plant I worked in. He was actually banned from phoning a talk show (he wore a phone headset while working on the line) because of his rants and argumentative nature, then bragged about this. He actually told me he would hate to work with himself and told me he hopes his son DOESN'T grow up to be like him. DUH!!! Talk, talk, talk...... If I ignored him, he would get right in my face and so I couldn't. Like a foot away sometimes. Honestly. I can really, really sympathize with you. My advice is get a set of headphones. Turn them on when you want to, but don't always have them on if you'd rather not. Just make out your listening to music or whatever. He won't know the difference. Sooner or later he'll find another person, or should I say victim to talk to. Just avoid any, and I do mean ANY discussion with him. Do not make eye contact either. Persevere and you'll be okay. It may take a while, but keep at it. People like him love this sort of thing (discussion). They think they have all the answers to all the problems of the world. They thrive on the attention, any attention !!!
posted by Taurid at 9:12 PM on April 17, 2009

feel like it's impolite

The word is "unprofessional".

"Hey Joe, I hear you talking politics at the office a lot. It's definitely a worthy topic, but a lot of us try to avoid it at work because you can't tell who's gonna get angry at what, and when someone is annoyed, you'll probably never hear about it. You end up wondering why it's taking you longer to get promoted than the other guy, but it's too late and there is no way you can ever tell after the fact if rubbing someone the wrong way made them less inclined to work with you. Work is THE reason we come here each day, so anything that oils that machine is good, and anything that creates needless friction is bad. Maybe we should talk politics some day, but I really don't think we should be doing it on the boss's dime.

Hell, the boss might totally agree with you, but he might be more interested in everyone having their heads down getting work done efficiently. That's the thing - you just never know. Politics is best discussed in our own time on our own dime."
posted by -harlequin- at 9:42 PM on April 17, 2009

More and more I find myself saying to people: "Is there some medication that you're supposed to be taking?".
posted by neuron at 10:17 PM on April 17, 2009

Could try a variation on arguing the absurd, i.e.; hyper agree with him.

[At this point... fade to imaginary conversation with co-worker in next cube]

.... Joe.. you know, I think I agree with you. Obama is the antichrist. I don't know how I missed it.

That must mean all his little black friends are demons, too. What say we get some guns and kill some niggers? How about it? You and me. We'll fix this problem once and for all. Are you with me?

[Joe looks uncomfortable... and shuts down.... starts avoiding you.]

Adjust to subject at hand and repeat, preferably in front of others.

My wife has actually done this with some policemen she interacts with in her job as a public defender and it has a calming effect on their racism. I used it once in a big meeting with two opponents that could not come to terms. I suggested they were right and that the only thing left for us to do was to all kill ourselves immediately. Broke the logjam.

Funny... in that meeting, which was just 4 people, I started it out with my usual method:

"Boys... this is my meeting. Edddy, Herman hates you. Herman, Eddy hates you. I hate you both. What are we gonna do?"

We were all VP's at a 250 person company and the only other guy in the room was the owner. They had been dancing around all week, afraid to put their feelings on the table and I just stripped their asses bare in 20 words. No bullshit. Works well some times. YMMV.

Hyperagree with this yahoo in public and carry his arguments to their logical and evil conclusions and destroy his credibility. He'll grow quiet, I almost guarantee.

Good luck.
posted by FauxScot at 5:39 AM on April 18, 2009

Just parrot back one or two year old stock "conservative" talking points back at him.

"It's treasonous to criticize the president in a time of war."

"Deficit spending doesn't matter."

"A thriving business culture is what drives America. If we don't support them and help them survive, nothing else will matter."

Don't frame it as a question.
posted by gjc at 6:21 AM on April 18, 2009

"Joe, when I want your opinion, I'll listen to Fox News."
posted by atchafalaya at 2:28 PM on April 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hey Joe, I hear you talking politics at the office a lot. It's definitely a worthy topic, but a lot of us try to avoid it at work because you can't tell who's gonna get angry at what, and when someone is annoyed, you'll probably never hear about it.

This. Very politely.
posted by All.star at 7:31 PM on April 18, 2009

Not to hijack, but could someone point me to what "well, bless your heart" means?

(it was BitterOldPunk's comment)

I get that it's a stereotypic "Southerner" thing to say (thanks Google) but not why it'd be appropriate as a comeback to ThreeTurtles' co-worker.
posted by flutable at 2:43 AM on April 19, 2009

Thanks for the input. If nothing else this AskMe was cathartic.

I'm not inclined to debate this guy. I try to avoid confrontation at work as much as possible, and I don't think it would do any good. I don't think he's well-informed so much as parroting things he half-understands.

Also, my boss is not his boss, and his boss vocally agrees with him when he starts in.

I've tried headphones, playing music, even pointing out that things are getting loud and I'm having problems doing my job because of the talk, but he seems to be completely unable to stop talking. Mind you, he talks about anything and everything all day. The political talk is only the most annoying to me personally.

Another problem is that there has been a lot of staff changes recently and whereas I used to have two Black coworkers in the office (who privately told me they thought he was racist), now the only people in the area most of the time are white and Hispanic and I think he thinks that he's more free to spout off. I've tried to make it clear that just because I look like him, I don't agree with him, but then he just directs his comments to someone else nearby.

I realize this is probably just a no-win situation, but I guess I thought I'd throw it out to see if anyone else thought of anything brilliant.

BitterOldPunk's suggestion made me laugh and I think I may actually use it.

Flutable, I'm not sure I can explain exactly what "Well, bless your heart" means, but understand that you can say any nasty, horrible thing about someone if you follow it with "Bless her heart." It's condescending and dismissive, but you can't be criticized for saying it. No, I guess I can't explain it. Similar phrases include "Love her to death, but..."

Ok, try this at Urban dictionary.
posted by threeturtles at 9:18 AM on April 19, 2009

I get that it's a stereotypic "Southerner" thing to say (thanks Google) but not why it'd be appropriate as a comeback to ThreeTurtles' co-worker.

Not a Southerner here, but the impression I got was that the tone/subtext from this was a dismissive sort of, "isn't it cute how silly you are?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 PM on April 19, 2009

Ah! I actually said it *out loud* and then the penny dropped! Thanks! Fave++ for BitterOldPunk!
posted by flutable at 4:27 AM on April 20, 2009

I've tried headphones, playing music, even pointing out that things are getting loud and I'm having problems doing my job because of the talk, but he seems to be completely unable to stop talking. Mind you, he talks about anything and everything all day. The political talk is only the most annoying to me personally.

If he just talks loud all the time, though, that is the best way to maybe get him to stop. If you complain to him about his anti-Obama stuff, then you become the liberal hater, but if you're complaining about the noise in general, then it's not about his ideas it's about you needing to do your job, and it's nothing personal, sorry, dude.

If it's really about the noise, see if your boss could talk to his boss about how it's a problem -- but emphasize that this is about the noise, and not about the issues, and maybe something may finally happen.

If nothing can be done, though, maybe just start a collection of the more extreme opinions you hear him utter. I once worked with someone who also talked at top volume about everything under the sun, but she had a sort of tenure, so people were reluctant to fire her. I put up with it by opening up a restricted-access section of my blog where I kept a running list of the Dumbest Things I've Heard My Co-Worker Say (the conversation she dragged me into about what species Yoda was was a big favorite, if memory serves).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:24 AM on April 20, 2009

Ok, I'm checking back in for posterity's sake. I ended up going on medical leave shortly after this AskMe, so I didn't have to deal with him for a while. After I came back things were quiet for a while, but one day two weeks ago he started in on Obama again. He started with tax policy, and I walked by his desk and dropped a comment correcting something he said, which he shrugged off. Then he just kept going about how Obama is the worst president in history, blah, blah, and finally worked up to saying either (I had left the room, so I'm not sure which he said) "Someone should assassinate him" or "Someone's going to assassinate him."

I was understandably livid and didn't know what to do. I debated contacting my boss, his boss (although she shares his views), HR, and the secret service. I consulted a coworker and sent off an email to HR asking about policies without sharing specifics. And I did lots of googling to find articles and information about talking politics at work and threats to the president.

Finally, I decided to write him an email. I asked that he refrain from discussing politics while at work as I found it offensive and distracting. I also included that I was worried about members of the public overhearing him and taking offense. Then I included an article about why it's a bad idea to talk about politics at work, an article about what kinds of statements the secret service have considered threats worth investigation, and an article about hostile workplace laws being applied to limit freedom of speech, including political speech. I sent the email off at 5PM on a Friday. On Monday morning he replied with "I understand and will comply." And there hasn't been a peep yet.

I decided on that strategy for a lot of reasons, mostly because it conveyed a subtle threat that said (to me): "This is your first warning. After this, I call HR and the secret service." Plus, it gave me a record of my request and what exactly it had contained in case I need documentation in the future. So maybe this will help someone in the future with the same problem. I'm really glad I did something about it without starting a big fight.
posted by threeturtles at 1:46 PM on June 18, 2009

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