- Political talk at work is getting mixed reviews, according to a recent Indeed survey of 2,000 U.S. employees. One in five (20%) of respondents to Indeed said they want more censure of politics in the workplace, 54% are comfortable with the current level of political discourse and 10% think too much speech is being censored.
- A majority (67%) of respondents don't feel that political groups are silenced in the workplace, but 23% disagree. When the latter group was asked where the pressure to censor originated, 60% pointed to peers and 40% said such pressures came from leadership.
- The study recorded differences in how political talk at work is viewed along ideological and gender lines, Indeed said. Of respondents who believe censorship exists, 66% think conservatives are censored, versus 34% who believe liberal speech is stifled. Among liberal men, 38% are comfortable talking politics at work, compared with 27% of liberal women. For conservatives, 35% of men are comfortable sharing their beliefs, compared to 23% of women.
Employers might not be able to ban political speech nor even desire to do so, but they can draft policies on civil discourse and acceptable workplace conduct. Heated political arguments are not only divisive among employees who must work together, they can also lower moral and productivity.
There is also legal precedent for employers being able to fire employees on the basis of what an employer may consider a vulgar expression of belief, even if those beliefs are expressed outside of normal work hours. Especially given the rise of social media platforms that puts workers' opinions and political activities into the spotlight, employers may need to clarify their values in order to ensure employees are on the same page.
That said, employers haven't shied away from political activity — many are embracing it. Sizable percentages of organizations are contributing to political action committees in 2018, and even more are mobilizing workers in order to push for policies they want, according to a report from The Washington Post.
But when controversial political viewpoints go beyond internal flare-ups, they can ignite even more discord for an organization's brand. Tech companies like Google have been susceptible to the problem in the past two years, as seen in the case of ex-Google engineer James Damore, who Google fired for posting what were deemed discriminatory messages against women and other groups in the tech industry. The incident jumpstarted a larger discussion about conservative presence and acceptance in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.