In the past couple of years and since the Arab Spring movements got people across the Middle East – and the world – glued to real-time news, political conversations have become almost inevitable in many offices. While this sentiment recently has been subdued, the barrier has been crossed and it may have become easier to express political views on events that are local or global more openly than it once was. This openness may, however, backfire. As many may have learned the hard way, political conversations can easily develop into arguments – and clashes that eventually impact personal and work relations.

With all free-speech arguments considered, differences in political views are not, or may not be held against you in themselves, but there are many risks associated with the outcomes of these differences when they are discussed and argued in a competitive workplace. For example, a person who lacks tolerance of others’ views may be considered rigid, or even worse, sabotaging a work environment. Views that are taken as an insult to a co-worker, or a group of co-workers based on their nationality or religion, can be simply grounds for disciplinary action or dismissal.

The solution: Avoiding political discussions altogether may be the ideal route, if possible. But in view of the difficulty of doing so whenever big news is developing and people are passionately following such events, you may need to keep a few tips in mind before you bring up politics in the workplace.

Know The Rules

Yes, there may be a written rule in your company policies that can be applicable to the situation. It is unlikely that the company bans political discussions from taking place, but since politics often lead to discussions related to social and economic issues, gender and perhaps ethnic background, you may find yourself unknowingly crossing the line, offending someone and violating company rules in the process. To err on the safe side, particularly if you notice others who are evading the topic, double-check written corporate policies or simply ask your supervisors if there are any limitations. If no rule is there, use your common sense to avoid a situation that may lead to arguments that ultimately may cost you your job.

Cultural Backgrounds

In a multi-cultural society like the UAE, it is a must to consider that others might be taking your opinions in developments in their countries as criticism or even an insult. That is why caution must be your guide when it comes to any discussion that involves a different nation from yours – particularly if you have limited knowledge of that country’s circumstances and a shallow relationship with the person you’re talking with. A better way to handle this situation is to get the person’s view first on the matter so that you can have a sense – and some enlightenment – before you unleash your own views. Finally, dump the know-it-all attitude and expressing your opinion with some modesty.


People tend to fill in the blanks when it comes to others’ political beliefs and values. So don’t be surprised if just one discussion gets you labelled as a conservative, liberal, etc. This doesn’t mean you need to keep all your opinions to yourself lest others misunderstand your position or think of you what you’re not. Instead, it is something to keep in mind if you see a sudden attitude change after a conversation that is not necessarily relevant to the situation. Even though it might be easier to ignore misunderstandings, don’t let them go unresolved. While it may be awkward to make a statement on your value set, it may be necessary sometimes to avoid misconceptions.


While political views are relative to our individual beliefs and values, respecting others’ views is not similarly negotiable. If you feel strongly about one matter and you find it hard to tolerate disagreement, this can be a prime example of when you should leave your political views out of the workplace. What you may think of as passion can be taken by others as an attempt to force your agenda or promote your inclination. This can be tricky even with those who agree with. Breaking the workplace down into groups based on different political inclination is a case when discussing politics in the office turn into office politics. The bottom line is that if you must engage in political conversations in the office, keep it within limits, be open to acknowledge others’ views and don’t get over-critical of other countries or people.

Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is currently a journalist based in Seattle.

Political update

- Consider cultural differences

- Respect others’ views

- Avoid arguments when possible

- Resolve any misconceptions