In Small Talk training programs in India, Indian professionals are divided on whether or not talking about politics is acceptable at work. While my personal experience as an American working in India has shown me in general that Indians are more comfortable talking about politics at work, there are definitely certain people, even in India, who prefer to keep their political opinions out of the office environment.
Since talking about politics seems to be more common or accepted especially in work-related small talk in offices in Kerala, India, I would like to share some dos and don’ts I have observed while working in the U.S. in regards to talking about politics and presidential elections in the U.S.
When is Election Day in the U.S.?
Election Day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in the U.S. Unlike in India, there is no day off (leave) from work on Election Day. More about Elections in the U.S. at Wikipedia.
|A Peek Inside a Voting Booth
Click to see a bigger size.
Where do people go to vote?
Unlike in India, where it may be necessary to go to one’s native place or panchayat to vote, Americans can register to vote in the county or area they live in, even if that is not where they were born or originally are from. Voting places may be local schools, fire stations, or community centers. Some states have early voting to ease polling lines on Election Day. For those who live away from home or out of the country or who are on military duty, they may opt for absentee ballots by postal mail.
Who can vote?
United States citizens 18 years old and over can vote. Based on the state one resides in, one must follow register in the county they live in (barring North Dakota), adhere to registration deadlines, residency requirements and may be asked about their criminal history. More about voter registration guidelines in the U.S. at Wikipedia.
How do I know if my colleagues have voted?
Unlike in India, where people get a black marker mark on their index finger, in the U.S., voters may wear a sticker that says ‘I voted.’ Some may wear this to work, while others may not. Some may talk about it, others may not.
If you want to initiate the conversation you can ask these questions during “normal times”:
**The rule of thumb is to ask very general questions that do not point to specific candidates or issues related to the election.**
What you should not say:
While some colleagues may be more open about their political stance at work, some may be very reserved or even prefer not to talk politics at work at all. It’s best to respect all types of people, while not getting too involved in heated discussions or debates at work.
Feel free to share your experiences talking about politics at work in the US. What are some of the topics you would talk about or avoid. Please feel free to share your stories or tips in the comment section below.
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I voted sticker: Michael Bentley @ flickr
Voting Booth: rheanvent @ flickr
I voted early sticker: Beth Wilson @ flickr
Absentee Ballot: Andrew Temam @flickr