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Political bitterness hits the office: My co-workers won’t talk to each other

Dear J.T. & Dale: This is going to sound crazy, but I’m trying to help co-workers who were best friends until the presidential election. Each was for a different candidate. Now they don’t speak to each other. It makes the entire working relationship uncomfortable. I have gone to my boss, but he says as long as they’re doing their jobs there’s nothing he can do. Is there something I can do? – Merle

J.T.: This is such a difficult situation, because while people are entitled to their opinions in politics, they should not be brought to the workplace. Are you sure there’s not more to this story? It seems crazy to me that just an election is the only reason they’re not speaking.

DALE: It doesn’t to me. I’ve never seen anything like the current political bitterness. Bear with me, but this reminds me of a story. Last year I was in an Apple store and the clerk said: “You look like you’re a veteran. We have special discounts for veterans.” I said: “No, I’m not. But I was part of the peace movement that helped end a war. What’s the discount for that?” She walked off and didn’t come back. That story comes to mind, because even during the Vietnam War, when young Americans were dying by the thousands, American democracy was never in question.

J.T.: That’s sad if it truly is politics, and, if so, I would suggest having a conversation with each co-worker, letting them know how uncomfortable they are making the workplace. Emphasize how much you care about each of them and how much it would mean to all of you if they could find a way to at least get along better in the workplace. Hopefully, they will realize that they’re not just hurting each other, but they’re hurting all of you as well. And maybe they will come to their senses and sit down and hash out their differences. If not, it might be time to start looking for a new job.

DALE: As someone who has worked as a professional mediator, I can tell you that most feuding former friends want to get past whatever is dividing them; they just need a face-saving way to get there. That’s you. Talk to each separately and let each one vent about the other and then remember this: Questions are the answer. Just ask what it would take for the two to reconnect. Odds are, it will be easy. But, if one of the two turns on you, step out of it quickly. Don’t let it be about you.

Dear J.T. & Dale: I’m sure you get this question a lot right now, but I am so happy working from home and my company just announced that we will be going back in September. What can I do? – Carmen

J.T.: Yes, the topic keeps coming up – I am coaching people on this every single day inside my platform. The most important thing you can do is have an upfront and honest conversation with your boss and ask openly what you can do to prove the value of you continuing to work from home. It’s best if you can provide proof that you are saving or making the company more money by working remotely. I also encourage you not to go in with an all-or-nothing mentality. Start by asking if you can find a way to work remotely full-time; if your boss says absolutely not, then propose a flexible work schedule where you could work from home a few days a week.

DALE: A recent Microsoft study reported that 73% of employees want remote options to continue, but, at the same time, 67% of employees want more in-person time with their teams. What does that sound like? Hybrid solutions. Will management go along? The same study found that two-thirds of business leaders are looking at redesigning their workplace for remote work. All of this suggests that your company is likely to be open-minded, and if not, many others will be.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2021 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.