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It's usually considered a bad idea to talk politics in the workplace. But HR consultant Laurie Ruettimann, in a post and video on her Cynical Girl blog, counters that conventional wisdom by urging you to have difficult, complex, and controversial discussions at work.

"Debate – especially respectful debate – is healthy," she insists. Indeed, discussing controversial topics at work with people you respect and admire – where the code of behaviour also means you won't punch anybody in the nose – might teach you some lessons about civil discourse.

Ideas that are discussed can resonate later. She remembers interesting conversations that years later have informed her thinking and opinions. "The more we are exposed to other points of view, the more it tests us and makes us smarter and stronger," she says.

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At the same time, she says you shouldn't count on immediately swaying others to your point of view. If you are in a political conversation that has hit gridlock, it's time to walk away. And it's definitely time to walk away if the other party offers some racist, sexist, or homophobic comments.

"There is no reason to stick and participate in a conversation if someone says something that offends you to your core. In fact, sticking around gives people permission to say additional stupid things. While it's not illegal to be a misinformed jackass, it's inexcusable," she declares. In such situations, say you have to make a phone call or have an appointment, and bail out.

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More


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