In a matter of weeks, we’ll officially enter a presidential election year.
Politics have seeped into almost every corner of American life, of course, and that includes the workplace, where political discussions were once considered taboo.
Not anymore. In fact, a recent Glassdoor poll finds that we should probably expect to hear plenty of politically charged conversations around the office as election season heats up.
An increasingly contentious political climate, combined with evolving generational norms, “are changing attitudes about the types of conversations that are appropriate at work,” according to a Glassdoor statement summarizing the survey findings. The poll of more than 1,000 workers saw more than 60% of respondents saying they have discussed politics with colleagues at work over the past 12 months.
Some employees are more comfortable with talking politics than others, however. For example, Glassdoor finds a gender gap in terms of comfort level with political discourse at work, with 67% of men saying they’re likely to discuss politics with co-workers, versus 54% of women saying the same. This gender gap holds true across age groups, according to Glassdoor.
Among female workers, younger women (62% of those between the ages of 18 and 44) more likely to engage in political discussions than women aged 35 and older. Still, younger workers overall are apparently a little less at ease with political views that differ from their own. Among all respondents, 82% said they have no issues working with colleagues with political ideologies that don’t align with theirs, but just 72% of Gen Z workers said as much.
However comfortable employees are with co-workers sharing disparate views, politics remain among the hottest of hot-button issues, and even respectful disagreements can result in some tense moments on the job.
In fact, past research has found at least a quarter of employees saying political talk in the workplace has negatively affected them. Given the reality that political discussions aren’t likely to disappear from the workplace going forward, employers should strive to create an environment where workers feel comfortable sharing their (sometimes very different) opinions on political and social issues.
“This means a healthy environment where all employees feel safe to share their knowledge, feelings and aspirations,” Laila Marouf, PhD, founder and chief knowledge officer at the Knowledge Mindfulness Group, recently told PSHRA.
“The reward will be high performance, high fulfillment that will be reflected in the success of the organization itself. This will lead to the ability to attract and retain great talent, leading to greater significance in the community and overall success.”
Jeremy Pollack, PhD, founder and CEO of Pollack Peacebuilding Systems Inc., noted the value of providing a forum for people to discuss topics that could be contentious, with politics being a prime example. He stressed, however, that “the intention should always be just to have a space to safely share individuals’ lived experiences or personal feelings, and not to argue who’s wrong or who’s more virtuous.”
That said, “I think it’s very appropriate to limit those sorts of discussions to very designated spaces, and saying that it’s not appropriate to, say, make personal comments on an ongoing war in an employee chat forum or Slack channel or something,” he continued.
“I think it’s very reasonable to have those kinds of rules for colleagues, because not only can it lead to a lack of productivity and people being distracted, it can also lead to a lot of broken trust and broken relationships, and it’s just counterproductive to the mission of the organization.”
01 December 2023
HR News Article