Is your co-worker talking about George Zimmerman?

It's probably one of the most loaded water cooler topics of the day — the George Zimmerman acquittal.

Most of us have strong personal opinions about this racially sensitive case and, surely, it's the talk story of the day. Even President Obama has weighed in commenting on the strong passion it has elicited. Regardless of your opinion, there's a co-worker who is sure to be offended and whether or not you realize it, stirring controversy can hurt your career.

So, what do you do when the topic arises?

You have a few options:

One: walk away. Two: change the subject. Three: agree to disagree. Four: engage in a debate.

If you go with route four, proceed with caution.

Pamela Trent tells this story on her blog:

If you’re old enough to remember the OJ trialand you were at work when the verdict was read, you may have noticed that there was a divide amongst those who wanted the Juice convicted and those who wanted him to run free. I remember where I was when the verdict was read, and I remember what happened right afterward. I was passing through the marketing department at my job, where someone had brought in a TV to monitor the trial. I was the only African-American standing around the TV. When the verdict was read, I cheered. I love football and loved OJ Simpson, so I was glad he was acquitted of a crime I was sure he didn’t commit. I was the only one who cheered. I was met with looks of disgust and one lady openly stated that it was what ‘black people wanted.’ Heated conversations ensued and working relationships changed. I learned a very valuable lesson that day about controversial topics at work.


One thing I've learned is that when it comes to debating a controversial topic at work — gay marriage, political campaigns or jury verdicts – you’ll never win and it could jeopardize your working relationships. Even if you think everyone in your office holds the same opinion as you do, there are lots of shades of gray that accompany personal opinions and ,sometimes, a single word can rub someone the wrong way.

Does George Zimmerman deserve to walk away a free man? 

Good question.

Just remember, there's nothing wrong with stating clearly that you don't want to debate this sensitive topic.

If you get asked that by a co-worker today, how will you answer?


The Work/Life Balancing Act

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