While in many parts of the country temperatures are falling, as election time nears, the political thermometer is heating up in offices across the nation. No matter what side of the fence you are on, there are simple steps you can take to keep your workplace from becoming an out-of-control political zoo. Remember, you still will have to be with your colleagues long after the poll results are in.

To safeguard yourself, be a good political strategist by being aware of the general climate in your office. If you work for an organization that flaunts its politics, your parallel view is probably an asset not a liability. If on the other hand, you happen to see the world from a different angle, it may be wisest to lay low.

If you are approached by others to talk politics and you don’t want to, extract yourself from the conversation. The more lighthearted you can be about your exit, the better. “My daddy always said politics and religion don’t mix well at work, but if you want to talk sports I’m happy to do that.”

If you are a passionate supporter of a particular candidate and can’t resist the urge to rock the vote at the office, use your common sense.

  • Remember, red, white, and blue enthusiasm is great. However, when the energy invested in politicking takes you away from getting your primary job done, you’ve gone too far.

  • Be bold. If you are a passionate supporter, say so. If people know you are an avid fan, they will keep a healthy distance if they don’t like to mix politics with work.

  • Don’t chase the people who are avoiding you.

What if you find yourself managing a crew of enthusiasts and don’t want to end up hanging Chad, Barbara, or Sam? If you had the foresight to set the ground rules in August, you’re probably in good shape. If you didn’t, you may find yourself in these last couple of weeks with the free-for-all fallout. If you do, keep your own politics to yourself if it’s not too late. Then, think long and hard before you step in and become as unpopular as the candidates who didn’t make it through the primaries. You may be making a big deal over something that will go away on its own.

If you must step in and manage out-of-control campaigners, keep your discussion to how the distraction of election season are affecting the quality of work being done and have specific examples to back up your assertions.

If your heart and your popularity are sinking because your problem is too late to fix, or you have too many fences to mend, just follow the lead of the pros: learn from your blunders, keep a low profile for the next few months, and if necessary, hire an expert to help you. In two years, you can emerge with an entirely new strategy and approach to office politics.