Skip to main content

Is Your Coworker Obsessed with Politics? 7 Ways You Can Help

Is Your Coworker Obsessed with Politics? 7 Ways You Can Help
Posted by Patrick Miller

Mary Ann Luna ate lunch every day with her best friend at work for 15 years. Their friendship gave them both a deep sense of camaraderie and belonging. But all of that was about to change.

In 2016, Mary Ann’s longtime friend began to send her articles attacking Democrats. Mary Ann wasn’t particularly liberal herself, but she was alarmed by the angry tone of the articles. Worse still, if Mary Ann ever objected to her coworker’s perspective, she would get grilled by her friend, who would demand sources for the points she raised and scold her for listening to elite, dishonest media.

After the election, things never quite felt the same. But they resumed their lunches and tried for a friendship.

When the cycle began to repeat itself in 2020, a more permanent distance grew between them. In late November of 2020, Mary Ann sent her work friend a text: “I am sorry that your guy lost, but let’s leave politics out and just be friends.”

Mary Ann never heard back. The two stopped talking.

Can We Demilitarize the Office?

 Chances are you’ve never experienced anything that extreme. But you’ve probably experienced something similar: your office growing tense as a result of political allegiances. Like all people, you have political beliefs and find yourself siding with this side or that. Yet, you know that some things matter a lot more than politics.

The Hebrew sages got it right: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). After all, who wants to work in an office characterized by disunity? It creates a chilling environment, where people are afraid to say anything lest it trigger someone else in the opposite party.

Which begs the question: Is there a way to navigate a coworker who is obsessed with politics?

While there is no silver bullet, there are a few ways that you can help your coworker by addressing the drama both in the heat of the moment and after the dust settles.

7 Ways to Help Your Politics-Obsessed Coworker

  1. Watch out for anger. Brain scientists who study anger have shown that when we get angry, our brain suppresses its higher reasoning functions. Put simply, the angrier we get, the more stupid we get.

    Of course, you don’t need a brain scan to discover this: “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29). If you find yourself getting angry, it’s probably time to shut up. If someone else is getting angry, don’t escalate. Instead, suggest that everyone take a breather and revisit the topic later.
  1. Ask a 1 to 10 question. Sometimes your coworker genuinely wants to have a dialogue about an important issue. They are open to having their mind changed. Other times, they just want a soapbox. To figure out which, ask them, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how certain are you that ____ is true?” If they answer between 8–10, then you can be certain they only want a soapbox. Patiently endure and move on.

    If they answer between 1–7, they might actually want a conversation. To move things forward, you can ask, “What would it take to change your mind on this topic?” If their answer isn’t insanely unreasonable, you could love them by seeking out the mind-changing information.
  1. View it as a learning experience. Our certainty should only be proportionate to our knowledge. Unfortunately, much of our political knowledge comes from clickbaity headlines and news organizations that make money by making people angry.

    For that reason alone, you should doubt how well informed you personally are about any topic. Ask your coworker questions that allow them to express their opinions. Even if you disagree, hold your tongue. You might learn something valuable about the topic, or about why someone holds a particular perspective.
  1. Interrogate any doubt. Of course, it’s equally true that your coworker may be speaking with more certainty than their knowledge justifies. If that’s the case, try asking: “What doubts or questions do you have about your perspective on this issue?” This will allow them space for a more thoughtful conversation, where you both can share questions and seek answers constructively.

  2. Emphasize shared identities. Unfortunately, politics has become a team sport. Even more unfortunately, there are only two teams, and they are rivals. So, what’s at stake during a political argument? My team winning.

    In the ancient world, ethnic strife worked the same way, so when it threatened to tear apart the early church, the apostle Paul tried to remind people that they were actually on the same team: “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11). Remind your coworker of what you share (employment, sports, faith, friendship, whatever!) and suggest that’s more important than politics.
  1. Leave the room. I know it can be awkward, but you can politely excuse yourself. Go to the bathroom. Get a drink. Check your email. Or you can try changing the subject: “That’s really interesting! Oh, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you about…” If you do it enough times, most people get the message.

  2. Confront with humility. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). When someone gets heated, give them a gentle answer: “I care about important issues, just like you do. It’s easy for me to get carried away, and I’m sure you’ve seen it. But don’t you think these fights are doing more harm than good? What if we stopped talking about these topics, or revisited them when we are both a bit more levelheaded?” You might be surprised by how much a humble, non-judgmental confrontation disarms a coworker.

It's true: partisan tribalism can drive a wedge between you and your coworkers and create a toxic and disunified work environment. Thankfully, Jesus provided us with an example for rejecting tribalism and choosing unity.

Want something tangible to share with your coworker too? How about our podcast? Our first episode examines tribalism from a beginner’s perspective and might be a great place for them to start their journey to de-tribalize.


Posted by Patrick Miller

Patrick Miller (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is a pastor at The Crossing. He offers cultural commentary and interviews with leading Christian thinkers on the podcast Truth Over Tribe, and is the coauthor of the forthcoming book Truth Over Tribe: Pledging Allegiance to the Lamb, Not the Donkey or the Elephant. He is married to Emily and they have two kids.

Are You Living in a Political Bubble? (Hint: You probably are.)