Bleeding-heart Liberal in Death Match with Reaganite Bosses!
June 16, 2009 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Get me off my high horse: how can I work with Republicans without losing my cool?

I just started a new job, which I don't hate and which pays well. The only problem is that two of my superiors are very vocal Republicans.

I recently graduated from a liberal New England college, which I attended after growing up in a very liberal household. I'd consider myself a practical liberal-- I think that a reasonable and intelligent government can solve a lot of America's and the world's problems, so I'm delighted with Obama. I've thought a lot about my political beliefs, especially over the past few years, so I'm secure in them. Still, I'm really not used to being around people who share such different political beliefs.

Every day, now, I get treated to a lengthy and loud conversation going on right next to my workspace about:
-How Obama's plans are idiotic
-How Obama is an awful person
-How Obama is generally a terrible president

To their credit, my superiors stick to mostly above-the-belt criticisms (i.e., nothing overtly racist). And I absolutely said worse about Bush when he was in office. Still, it really pisses me off to the point where it's hard to work and hard to respect my superiors. I'm not going to confront them since they are my superiors and I just started, but I'm hoping some of you will have internal coping mechanisms, a healthy dose of perspective, anything.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (56 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
People are people -- idiots, actually -- and we need to agree to disagree.
posted by @troy at 8:39 AM on June 16, 2009

The owner of the company I work for has Minuteman bumper stickers on his company car, puts anti-immigrant propganda in with our plumbers' paychecks, and is always whining when "the blacks" get a job instead of him. Oh, and he suddenly has a keen interest in guns and is raising chickens. I just ignore him for the most part, and when he starts to rant, I give him a level look right in the eyes and say, dead calm, "Don't start."

Our office manager listens to "doctor" Laura all day. I stand outside the door until she turns it off when I want to go in her office.
posted by notsnot at 8:44 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

I've been there, and I certainly empathize. At my last job, I was the only Democrat (and a middle-of-the-road one at that) surrounded by Liberpublican-types who spent a fairly significant portion of their day parroting what they heard while listening to Boortz, Hannity, and Limbaugh. Here's how I got along: I shut up. I did my job well. I collected my paycheck.

Keep two things in mind: 1) Chances are, talking about politics isn't part of your job description. 2) You're there to work, not to make friends.

One more point I'll make is that having graduated from a liberal college and growing up in a liberal household, you could probably USE some exposure to differing political views. Just don't let it get in the way of your being able to do your job, that's all.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:47 AM on June 16, 2009 [6 favorites]

And I absolutely said worse about Bush when he was in office.

You may have brought this upon yourself. The lesson moving forward is "try and keep emotional subjects out of the workplace."

In the meantime you might console yourself with the idea that nothing you can say will change their minds, anymore than they could change yours, so arguing with them is tilting at windmills. Let them exist in their own little world, and smile inside that for at least the next 3 years, someone you agree with is in charge of your country. Relax, you won.
posted by modernnomad at 8:48 AM on June 16, 2009 [8 favorites]

If you are anything like me, you should view the job as temporary and begin to look for a more hospitable environment. Even the idea that you might get out some day will assuage some of your discontent.
posted by biggity at 8:48 AM on June 16, 2009

If it's loud and next to your workspace, maybe you could make it about the noise level itself? Because they're talking loudly, and it's disrupting your conversation and you want to do a good job, but sometimes you have a little trouble focusing, and so...Treat it like an impartial noise problem alone, not the nature of that noise. If you think you can take one of them aside and start a conversation about, "um, sorry, but sometimes the noise level around my desk gets a little loud" (note: do NOT call out any of the people who actually are making the noise, is my hunch) "and it does affect my work, is there something I can do to address that?"

They may say there is nothing you can do about it, sorry. My own office was that way - loud conversations around me, but little I could do about it. In that case, I settled for just inwardly rolling my eyes when someone near me said something outrageous, and mentally saving the story aside for the next time my friends and I had "let me tell you how crazy MY job is" story swaps at the bar.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:49 AM on June 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

I get treated to a lengthy and loud conversation going on right next to my workspace

Can you move? What about headphones, even if they're on a low level?

I'm not going to confront them since they are my superiors and I just started

I think this is the real issue, the desire for confrontation. You reallyreallyreally want to argue with them and prove they're wrong, but the fact is, you're probably not going to. They believe different from you and that's ok. You don't have to prove them wrong, just work for the policies that you believe in. Volunteer after hours to help your causes so that you're feeling like you're doing something. Otherwise, start a blog and vent like like crazy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:50 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

The best way to deal with the lengthy and long conversations next to your workspace is to deal with them as you would any distracting conversation. Say, in a pleasant and friendly way, "I'm having a hard time getting my work done with all this conversation. I'd so appreciate it if you'd lower your voices/take it to the break-room/step into the stairwell/etc." Should you be brought into the conversation, say "This is a really interesting topic of conversation, but I best be getting back to work." Otherwsie, be liberal and remember that people have the right to their opinions, that by spouting off you're not going to educate anyone, and that, in fact, hearing what "the enemy" has to say makes you more prepared to argue politics in appropriate venues (not at your new job).
posted by Pineapplicious at 8:51 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's what I do in a similar situation:

1) If there are other people included on the conversation, I stare vacantly off into space with a neutral expression, making it pretty clear that I'm lost in my own thoughts.
2) If it is a one-on-one thing, I find a convenient place to smile and say, "I don't think politics are a good thing to discuss at work. There will always be something we disagree about, and I'd much rather talk about something that's agreeable."
3) If there's a loud conversation going on that I'm not a party to, I shut the door, or if I'm in a cubicle, I pick the phone receiver up and ask the persons to move as I'm trying to talk on the phone. IE, make it an issue about the noise and not about the content. Alternately, I'll stick my head up and interrupt them with some point of business. This usually works to get them moving somewhere else if they want to continue the conversation.

You are right that there's no point in confrontation - they have all the power in this situation and you have none.
posted by muddgirl at 8:52 AM on June 16, 2009

Don't argue politics at work. Also, don't argue politics at work, nor should you argue politics at work. That being said, one strategy for keeping your sanity here is to occassionally drop a truth bomb. Make sure it's a really, really good one, and only do it very rarely. Improved medical access is in the news, so when they get really uppity about how The United States Free Market System Has The Best Healthcare In Teh World, kindly inform them that we actually have lower life expectancy than Bosnia and Herzegovina. Don't carry the point any further, just let it be known that we're 30th in the world in life expectancy. Just an interesting fact they should know, not something that disproves their entire ideology.
posted by 0xFCAF at 8:58 AM on June 16, 2009 [5 favorites]

Re-reading your question, I don't think politics are at all an appropriate topic for work environments, no matter the perspective. I am extremely progressive, yet I refrain from spouting off about socialism and agrarian utopias, even with work friends who share my opinion. I feel the same way about sex, religion, and to some extent money. You don't need perspective, you need to make it clear that your bosses are acting like boors in discussing such things loudly "in company".
posted by muddgirl at 8:58 AM on June 16, 2009

Your work persona is a role that you play. I've been on the opposite situation, but they could be talking about anything you oppose or have strong feelings to the contrary about.

Agree to disagree if you are directly engaged, and play your role.
posted by jgirl at 8:59 AM on June 16, 2009

Oh and this is so true:
having graduated from a liberal college and growing up in a liberal household, you could probably USE some exposure to differing political views

I'd recommend taking it a step farther and consider this a learning experience. These are real live, flesh and blood people, with friends and family who care about them and love them. I'd encourage you to engage with them as people, not as adversaries, so that you can come to understand how reasonable folks have conclusions different from yours and still retain their humanity.

In retrospect, one of the best decisions of my life as living among the stereotypical Southerners. While I don't and never will agree with everything they believe, I have come to think that the things that separate us are smaller than those that unite us. By treating them with respect for their views, they've come to respect me for mine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:02 AM on June 16, 2009 [8 favorites]

The dentist I used to go to had huge flat-screen tvs in both offices' waiting rooms playing FoxNews all day. Luckily(?) I no longer have dental coverage and haven't had to sit there listening to the bile in a long time.

My best friend worked for a couple of years for a small marketing group in Indianapolis. Just him (the "art department") and the two partners. The partners played talk-radio throughout the office all day. My friend was treated to a daily diet or Rush, Hannity, etc.

Sometimes, you just have grin and bear it.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:03 AM on June 16, 2009

Three things:

Do a bit of research on William F Buckley Jr. and realize he is (was) the voice of conservatism. He was from Yale (a highly valued New England college) and has been called "more Reagan than Reagan." The modern conservative voice for the most part can find its roots in Buckley. And Buckley was no dummy.

Second, look at Rush Limbaugh in a new light. No doubt, I know exactly the light in which you are observing him. I'm not talking about that light. I'm talking about a different one. Look at Rush Limbaugh in a new light. He is the modern voice of conservatism. Find that new light.

Third, get rid of this idea that racism has something to do with conservatism. It doesn't. Racism is spread nice and evenly across the political spectrum (Senator Byrd anyone?). If you think it resides primarily with conservatives you've been listening to the wrong (probably racist) liberals.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 9:07 AM on June 16, 2009 [7 favorites]

When I hear this sort of thing going on, I do my best to "embrace diversity," as I understand that there are a lot of different types of people, with differing viewpoints and life experiences. Failing that, I say, "Well, bless your heart!" Or, "Wow!" None of this means that don't think that the speaker is wrong, completely wrong. It is a means of dumping the bile down the drain, and moving on.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 9:08 AM on June 16, 2009

You could try engaging and debating with them. Don't get to emotional but keep up to date with your facts. If you do well they might stop having loud discussions around you at least.
posted by delmoi at 9:09 AM on June 16, 2009

Best answer: I used to have a game I'd play with the change in my desk drawer. Whenever I got back from lunch or running errands, I'd empty my pocket change into my desk and use it for sodas and coffee and vending machine snacks and stuff. Then whenever one of my brainwashed dittohead moron co-workers (or one of the reasonable, upstanding right-thinking Christian folk, take yr pick) would say something unbelievably stupid, I'd move some of the change from one side of the desk to the other. Instead of replying. Though I desperately wanted to. The more I wanted to jump into the conversation, the more change I'd transfer.

Then every month or so I'd count it out and donate it to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:09 AM on June 16, 2009 [78 favorites]

Just think of it like this: They're venting like this because they lost and momentum is still against them. They're frustrated, and they're no real threat to progress.

When you hear something that starts to rile you up, step back and think, "Hey, they lost. And they're mad. It's natural. I did the same thing when Bush ran the show." Smile to yourself and carry on. We won, and you might as well enjoy it.

And seconding everyone saying that you've still got plenty in common with them when they're not ranting about the accursed Socialist Emperor Barack Hussein Obama.
posted by ignignokt at 9:10 AM on June 16, 2009

By "no real threat to progress," I mean that they're not really going to change anything with their ranting, so you shouldn't feel threatened by it.
posted by ignignokt at 9:11 AM on June 16, 2009

"You may have brought this upon yourself. The lesson moving forward is "try and keep emotional subjects out of the workplace."

I think the OP made it pretty clear that they JUST STARTED THIS JOB (after Obama was elected). So, I do not believe that he/she contributed to a workplace culture of political tit-for-tat in this work situation. (Unless you're talking about karma? And that isn't really helpful.)

Anyone loudly discussing something that I don't find pleasant or helpful, every day, next to my office space, would make me crazy. I don't care if it is a daily, loud conversation about politics or their toe fungus or their dog's dietary habits. Annoying. Yes, either view this as a temporary job or get headphones. You have my sympathies.
posted by jeanmari at 9:11 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Brandon Blatcher. Many, many cross-party, cross-ideology close friendships exist among Hill lawmakers and staff. Pete Domenici and Paul Wellstone were very tight; they were both huge mental health parity advocates. Orrin Hatch has many close Dem friends. I know of cross-party marriages, too, at least among staff.

I mean, if Bono and Jesse Helms, or Bob Barr and Maxine Waters can find common ground, and in the first case, friendship, you surely can see these people in other ways. Frankly, you will have to learn to, not just in your current worksite.

IIRC, Larry Flynt and Jerry Falwell developed mutual respect and fondness for one another.
posted by jgirl at 9:18 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

FWIW I AM a Republican and a substantial subset of Republicans annoy ME. I wouldn't enjoy your environment even if I agreed substantially with what they were saying (and chances are I might.)

Do as the folks above suggest and treat it as a learning experience. I myself have been here on Metafilter for years and one of the reasons is exactly that-so I don't demonize the "other side."

People believe a thing because it makes sense to them. It never hurts to learn how to see through another person's eyes-and absolutely, you do not have to agree with someone to be able to do that. It is a useful life skill to have.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:20 AM on June 16, 2009 [7 favorites]

1: You don't need to respond. Talking politics if you're not good at it is a bad idea, and unnecessary in the workplace anyway. You can even say "I don't discuss politics at work." OR "I always think its a bad idea to talk politics at work."
2: You can ask someone making a noise and disturbing your work to quieten down whether they are neo-nazis, compassionate conservatives or the Dalai Lama.
3: If you have to talk politics, remember that by getting angry you lose. You need to be cleverer than that. Question those you disagree with, ask them to explain what they mean, ask them how they came to their conclusion. Question their evidence. Doing this effectively is a skill it takes a while to acquire. It may also help you to question your own preconceptions.
posted by biffa at 9:21 AM on June 16, 2009

An example of how I cope:

If someone comes into my office to talk to me, and I know he (it's always he) holds very conservative views, I keep typing and say something like "Just a sec. The Obama Administration is compiling a list of all white gun owners and I just about have it done for here (our place of employment).

People have half believed me.
posted by Danf at 9:22 AM on June 16, 2009 [6 favorites]

I would say you should react the same as Republicans who feel put upon working with Democrats: With maturity and understanding. IMHO, the accusation of "narrow-mindedness" is the same as "they-don't-believe-what-I-want-everyone-to-believe." That accusation cuts both ways.

Be the bigger person and act like an adult.
posted by damiano99 at 9:26 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Try to understand who they are and what they want in life. When they trash Obama, ask them about their weekend, how was the fishing, the craft fair, how's the dog. Try to find common ground. My former boss was a Limbaugh fan, but otherwise a smart, nice guy and a great boss. We tacitly agreed not to discuss politics. You are there to work, so anything you do to get the focus back on work is a good thing.
posted by theora55 at 9:32 AM on June 16, 2009

In my experience, the feeling that's driven me to argue with people over politics isn't so much desire to change their minds as a certain sense of hopelessness. You know, "Good lord, if that guy upthread doesn't realize how his examples themselves illustrate how wrong he is, that means lots of OTHER people probably think that way, too! And some of them probably vote! What can anyone do about the world, when it's so benighted/fallen/otherwise wrong?!"

The way I've chosen to deal with this, and for me it's a pretty effective way, is to actually get involved in real politics. It's easiest when there's an election on, of course, to do something like volunteering to go canvassing for your candidate, but at all times there's political organizations in need of monetary support, volunteers, or both. You're essentially never going to flip a committed [foo] party member to [bar] through rhetoric; I'm sure it's happened, but it's rarer than rare. However, doorknocking and other sorts of campaigning very frequently help to get fencesitters onto your side, or to energize the apathetic in electorally meaningful ways. If you know, or at least suspect, that through your actions you're helping to make more and more active democrats, or that in some way you're helping to persuade democratic lawmakers to support better policies -- at more than just the federal level; a lot of important stuff happens at the state and municipal levels too -- it sort of stops being crazy-making to listen to whining and wrongness from the other side.

(also, seconding BitterOldPunk's idea from upthread...)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:32 AM on June 16, 2009

It can be interesting to try to get inside their heads, and try to understand why they think the things they do, and why they say the things they say. They have a reason, and of course they are human beings, so their actions & behavior are a result of the collective of their experiences. I'm not saying you should mentally condescend to them as pitiable. But trying to figure them out can take some of the frustration out of listening to their stupid ideas about politics ;).
posted by Salvor Hardin at 9:33 AM on June 16, 2009

I have a boss who does this too, but is otherwise a great guy to work for and as a person.

First off, I have to reject all the "live and let live" "it'll be a wonderful chance to broaden your horizons!!" stuff going on here. Two reasons:

-How Obama's plans are idiotic
-How Obama is an awful person
-How Obama is generally a terrible president

these are are not reasonable positions and there is nothing to learn from them. While I have some major problems with Obama, the republican rejection of him as a failure after 5 months is not the rhetoric of reasonable people. You cannot learn anything from them because they are mindless. You might as well try to learn from a rock.

2) They are your bosses. They are abusing their power. They most likely know they are making you and others uncomfortable and they just don't care. They are assholes.

Whenever my boss mentions politics, I put in my headphones. When he brings them up in a chat, I leave the chat. I avoid it as much as I can, and try to focus on the good aspects of working for him.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:34 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've been in similar situations. I kept my views to myself and refrained from telling people why I disagreed with them. I've found that as I get to know coworkers and we communicate about non-controversial topics we develop respect for each other as people. At some point I start feeling more free to express my opinions. I usually put a personal spin on them, i.e. I show that my beliefs are not just philosophical but are also rooted in personal experience, and because they've come to know me in other ways people are much more open to at least thinking about what I've said.
posted by mareli at 9:35 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Go the the gun section at Walmart and buy the orange, 32db Winchester earplugs. If you buy the Winchester over-the-ear hearing protection for $7.00 and place it over the earplugs, the only thing you will hear will be your heart beating and your tendons creaking.

Also, try bringing up the NBA playoffs or baseball or something when they go into rant mode.

At church, after I've become friends with people first, they'll genuinely ask me what I think of Obama's plans for x or y and share their fears with me, and I try to gently explain that a) all government is horrifically inefficient, so not much will change, and b) talk radio's sole purpose is to create fear and by doing so generate advertising dollars.

If you wait long enough (and it may be a long while), occasionally something rational will slip out, and then you can have an interesting discussion.

What I found most interesting about Rush Limbaugh (circa 1992) was when he would criticize various Republicans for straying from The Path. It gave me some insights into the far right. What I find interesting now is when Obama is criticized for being moderate or making political compromises. A lot of Republicans don't realize, for example, that the tobacco compromise upset a lot of people for not going far enough. I guess my point is that most of the spouters *have no idea* what real socialism or radicalism looks like.
posted by mecran01 at 9:36 AM on June 16, 2009

I spent the year leading up to the 2008 elections trapped in a construction trailer with several Libertarian/Republican hybrids (Liberpublicans?). The worst of both worlds combined into one delicious package! They were not my supervisors, however, so the conversations tended to go like this:


Me: Did you see this invoice?


Me: What about this purchase order?

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I never, not one single time, brought up politics with them and did my best to dodge those types of conversations when they happened around me. I wasn't there to discuss politics with them, we were there to construct buildings. However, it was difficult, especially as the election neared. The only thing that made it at all worthwhile was coming in that morning after the election. The long faces that greeted me made me gloat on the inside, but only the inside.

You have my sympathy.
posted by crankylex at 9:37 AM on June 16, 2009

Case in point you're just seeing the other end of the spectrum. I'm Republican and if you heard the racist, ethnic and religion-based insults I heard thrown about for both Bush's from what you describe you're actually getting an easy time of it.

Best you can do is to clearly state you don't want to speak about politics at work or prefer not to. If you have no reason to then simply don't or excuse yourself from conversations. Focus on your job, not politics.
posted by PetiePal at 9:38 AM on June 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Let me add that what I'm suggesting is that you might get to the point where you can ask questions like, "How would you define a good president?" Once they start having real conversations they tend to reel in the ridiculousness a little bit.
posted by mecran01 at 9:41 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you ever feel the need to make a hasty retreat, there is no reason why you can't reach into your pocket, grab your cell phone and say, "I'm really sorry, I have to go take this..." and then run away talking to yourself. "What did the doctor's say?" or "I'm so glad to hear from you, I was getting worried!" Even if they ask, you can minimize it to, "Oh you know, my mother has the drama bug... everything's a crisis..."

My grandmother has a trick she uses anytime people start discussing politics, sex or religion. She just gets very quiet and at a lull in the conversation, she says, "It's all just too, too terrible..." and that is pretty much all she ever says on any subject. It is so entirely vague that nobody can make out what she really means. But everyone gets the picture that the topic isn't to her liking and that she'd prefer to talk about something else. I've considered using this occasionally, but I just haven't perfected the inflection. I'm practicing, though.
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:45 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Treat it like an impartial noise problem alone, not the nature of that noise.

Quoted for truth.

This, and finding something to ritually *do* to distract you before opening your mouth, and focusing on some other neutral subject when smalltalk is going to happen.

I so feel your pain; I've been there.
posted by desuetude at 9:50 AM on June 16, 2009

Don't have conversations with them. Ignore them, back out of conversations regarding politics that they start with you...

Please know that, if you argue with them, or they learn you don't agree, you will become a target... I suspect that the conversations are already intended to bait you or someone else.

It's just a job, do it, collect your pay, then go have a life that doesn't include these kinds of idiots.
posted by HuronBob at 9:56 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't carry the point any further, just let it be known that we're 30th in the world in life expectancy. Just an interesting fact they should know, not something that disproves their entire ideology.

Don't do this. There is no such thing as "truth" or "facts" in an office conversation. What are you going to do when they say it's false? Run over to your computer to prove them wrong? And then when they claim your cite is biased? Then what?
posted by smackfu at 9:58 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

What I like to do is ask them basic questions that make them think without offering up my own views. If you assert your own beliefs (naturally) they are likely to get defensive. You have to let them come to their own conclusions. But if you ask them questions with a genuine sense of curiosity (because you really do find their beliefs to be perplexing) then you can truly plant seeds of doubt that may one day crack the pavement of their dogmas and blossom into a tree of knowledge. Don't get emotional, remain strictly logical and cordial. Don't force a conclusion. Let the uncertainty linger... it's a beautiful thing.
posted by symbollocks at 10:07 AM on June 16, 2009

So the possibilities are:
1. You are completely right and your coworkers are completely wrong.
2. You are completely wrong and your coworkers are completely right.
3. You are both right.
4. You are both wrong.
5. Both 3 and 4.

I believe you have chosen 1 and you have failed! The correct answer is 5. Deal with it.

The truth is, there really is not enough information to tell at this point. The real proof will not come for 15 - 20 years at the earliest, and by that point you probably won't even realize it or even care very much.
posted by Yorrick at 10:18 AM on June 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

"Hey Guys... maybe Obama has a plan for workplace efficiency that is superior to standing aroung wasting time? Can one of you rock stars help me with this problem...."

"Are you guys talking about me because my dad is black, I am a transvestite, and I want Tiny Tim to run for office in the next election".

"I'm sorry. I try to avoid discussions at work that involve politics, religion, and highly divisive social issues. My job here is to help this company be successful. What's yours?"

" I am the biggest fucking liberal on the planet and I want to take all your money, give it to illegal aliens, and while I am at it, impregnate your daughter. Just thought you'd want to know! Now get back to work. I have world domination to attend to."

"Hey guys, asshole practice period is over. We're trying to work over here."

Just some ideas.
posted by FauxScot at 10:45 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Never discuss politics or religion. Listen, watch and learn. Think of this as a crucible and it helps refine your beliefs. I became a better thinker by being opposed to contrary views and asking myself, "why do I believe this?"

Also, keeping score by keeping change is good and provides an outlet. Be zen, be calm, be prepared.
posted by jadepearl at 11:00 AM on June 16, 2009

I am a liberal in a very conservative state. For a year, I worked for a company that was owned by very conservative people who also happened to be very vocal about their opinions. My solution was to not say anything when they got into political discussions, because I would have been the only dissenting voice. Since it's a work environment, it seems unnecessary to launch into a political debate. I think that politics should never be discussed at work, and that people who do are rude.

If they actually ask your opinion, I would be honest. Otherwise I would just not participate in the conversation at all.
posted by Lobster Garden at 11:25 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Look at Rush Limbaugh in a new light. He is the modern voice of conservatism. Find that new light.

He is a modern voice of reason. In truth, there's a whole rainbow (sorry) of conservative opinion out there, much of it absolutely furious at the current republican party either for being too soft or for being too hard.

I'm guessing your guys haven't put a whole lot of thought or study into the matter - most opinions, after all, are received rather than created - but you might be able to make a study of conservatism, paleo to neo, and engage them on discussions of theory. A good portion of the neocons, for example, are essentially renegade radicals, still not averse to a whole lot of government interference. Get them off guard. Are they pro-war in Iraq? If so, how do they deal with Pat Buchanan, who absolutely is not? That sort of thing.

Of course, you might just come off as a college educated smartass, as they may not want to put a whole lot of thought or study into the matter. Not a lot of people take delight in having their opinions changed. Still, there is much to learn from the conservative mindset if you care to dig. Let this be part of your continuing education, even if does not prove to be part of your superiors.

But I sympathize with your situation. I've got similar where I work, though sporadic enough that it can be dismissed as merely tedious.

Oh, and a bit of good news- in a very few short years, the whole notion of work superiors will lose a whole lot of currency with you.

(Much anger in Fauxscot- no profit in turning to that side of the force.)
posted by IndigoJones at 11:34 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

First, it's always a bad idea to talk politics at work. If they try to engage you, just say that you don't talk politics at work. That's easy.

But second, for some grateful that you live in a democratic country where open debate is not only encouraged but a cherished part of communal society! (Well, not as much these days but that's another story.) It could be way Iran.

Be grateful that the spirit of debate is alive and well in the USA -- it's one of the greatest things about your country!
posted by Flying Squirrel at 1:19 PM on June 16, 2009

If they were talking politics but stayed to topics you agreed with, would you be less annoyed?

If you only want to hear things you agree with politically, I don't think the problem is any more theirs than it is yours.
posted by Phyltre at 1:53 PM on June 16, 2009

Whenever someone tries to drag me into a divisive or right wing political discussion, I always say I don't get involved in politics, I'm neutral, like Switzerland (I know, they aren't really neutral, but it gets my point across.) If people push the issue I just keep shrugging. A few times people have accused me of not doing my civic duty, by being apolitical. I tell them I vote, I keep it to myself, and I do lots of local volunteer work to make a difference in society. I've never had anyone keep at me after that.

In reality my views are very liberal, but I would never tell anyone I was a liberal.

But yeah, don't engage these guys in political discussion in any way shape or form. Even a little bit. you can't do anything but make the situation worse.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 1:53 PM on June 16, 2009

I think that a reasonable and intelligent government can solve a lot of America's and the world's problems,

If you remain steadfast in this belief chances are you will never be at peace with most conservatives.

Opening your mind up to other creative alternatives may provide some sort of common ground between you and your conservative bosses as well as other conservatives especially if those alternatives deal with reducing government.

You should look upon it as a chance for you to grow outside your liberal upbringing and apply your newly minted degree from your liberal New England college. I am assuming, of course, that you used your college years, in part, to try out new things.

Good luck.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 2:24 PM on June 16, 2009

Do you just want to figure out a way to not be bothered by hearing things you think are obviously wrong asserted as obviously right, or do you want to find a way to make this a positive experience? You're getting some advice for both, but I think you need to decide what your goal is here.

My views are such that virtually everything I hear everywhere I go is diametrically opposed to what I believe to be true. I also like to have long political debates. Your situation sounds awesome to me.
posted by decathecting at 3:23 PM on June 16, 2009

You should look upon it as a chance for you to grow outside your liberal upbringing and apply your newly minted degree from your liberal New England college. I am assuming, of course, that you used your college years, in part, to try out new things.

I dunno, this reads to me as pretty condescending. Do you really think joining in a discussion during work hours with her bosses to argue against such deep theses as "Obama sux" is a great opportunity for a new, junior employee to thoughtfully explore counter political viewpoints to her own?
posted by desuetude at 5:50 PM on June 16, 2009


Of course, I'm not advocating arguing. I'm advocating the point of view that a person who has grown up in a liberal household and a new graduate of a liberal New England college (her words not mine) might assume that she could learn something from the world around her. Let us not assume she knows enough and make her out to be a condescending know-it-all.

It's a chance for her to grow--to experience something she may not have before. It sounds like her entire life has been spent immersed in a limited point of view and perhaps college wasn't all it could have been. This is an excellent opportunity for her to expand her horizons. I think she, in fact, should explore political viewpoints counter to her own. No argument necessary for that.

Hopefully, she stays there a lot longer than a year. Otherwise she would miss out on a wonderful educational opportunity!
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 6:20 PM on June 16, 2009

Hopefully, she stays there a lot longer than a year. Otherwise she would miss out on a wonderful educational opportunity!

I'm sort of split on this. Yes, maybe there is something to be learned other than that these guys are assholes, but chances are slim.

I think the best way to actually learn from them, and maybe surreptitiously get them to short-circuit themselves, is to play the ingenue. When they make some incredibly stupid remark in a circumstance where you can't excuse yourself, counter it with something gosh-gee-whiz naive, preferably with a patriotic slant as well

They dump on Obama? "My momma taught me to respect the President."

He's socialist/fascist/antidemocratic? "Gosh, I heard those people in Iran say they were inspired by Obama." or something along those lines.

Something like the Bobby Jindal slam on volcano monitoring? "Gosh, didn't Lousiana have a city nearly wiped off the map by a natural disaster?"

You're young, fresh out of school, so you can play the ingenue and get away with it. Milk it for all it's worth.

I like Bitter Old Punk's method too, and You Can't Tip a Buick's motivation to really get involved in response.
posted by Sublimity at 9:27 PM on June 16, 2009

Take it easy and don't be smug. There are smart conservatives and smart liberals, as well as stupid conservatives and stupid liberals. Please don't assume that just because they hold different political beliefs and values they are awful people. Since you mentioned that their criticisms are largely above-the-belt, perhaps realizing that having opinions that differ from yours isn't a good reason to disrespect people.

Now the distraction is a different problem and people have given you lots of ways of handling that. Ask them nicely to take the discussion somewhere else because it distracts you and prevents you from doing work, etc. But a lot of comments here seem to have a very smug tone of 'live among the savages and conduct an anthropological study of the natives' and I suspect that this attitude won't make your life any easier. Don't bait your bosses, don't look down on your bosses -- and have some respect for them even if you disagree. If the only way for you to respect someone is to have them believe exactly the same things as you, groupthink will be the end of your intellectual development.
posted by bsdfish at 4:04 AM on June 17, 2009


"(Much anger in Fauxscot- no profit in turning to that side of the force.)"

Actually, no anger at all. I have run into this a lot and find that humor (even pointed) disinfects. Takes a specific type of personality to pull it off, and it helps if you REALLY are contributing to a mission at work, which discussing politics (or other divisive matters) does not enhance. People need to be reminded of why they are all there and what they are all doing. My approach is joking, and the technique, if there is one, is reductio ad absurdum.

Also, it's a decent social probe. If your office mates can't moderate themselves, you find out fast. No job is worth harrassment, sexual, political, or racial and any employee worth keeping around can usually nudge the environment in positive directions. If not, he does everyone a favor by leaving. It is a slow process, beset by many setbacks and frustrations. Humor is one way of displaying intellect while showing teeth.

Really, this question contains some critical subtext. It suggests that OP doesn't interview his companies well. Best to get this visible in the interview and avoid making a bad decision in the first place. Money, job, prestige, future... they are but parts of the job. Making a decision on surface features is what separates a newbie from a mature employee.

Now I have to get back to abusing my beagle....
posted by FauxScot at 4:06 AM on June 17, 2009

I am a die-hard Republican (and for the record, I am a minority, female Berkeley grad. I bet you're white and probably a man) so I don't much agree with your politics but it's inappropriate to be discussing politics at work. Most of the advice here is pretty sound. Changing the subject or diffusing the situation with humor usually works.

I would strongly disagree with those who have advised countering their comments with statements that would lead to further political discussion, this can only lead to trouble or possibly a really ugly argument. I hope this doesn't sound too snarky, but liberals are always preaching tolerance and diversity and now you get a chance to practice what you preach. Having been on the reverse end of this, I know it sucks. Good luck.
posted by calgirl13 at 10:30 PM on June 17, 2009

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