- Although nearly half (49%) of the respondents in a new Randstad US survey said they enjoy talking politics with colleagues to understand others' viewpoints, 53% admitted they were less likely to spend time socially with coworkers holding opposing political viewpoints. More than half (55%) of respondents have witnessed heated political arguments at work, and more than a third (38%) have been involved in them.
- These results indicate deep political divisions emerging in the workplace that reflect the country's political climate, Audra Jenkins, Randstad North America's chief diversity and inclusion officer, said in a statement. "It seems there's no escaping politics, even on supposedly neutral ground, and unfortunately this can contribute to feelings of alienation as well as deteriorating relationships in the workplace."
- Over two-thirds (72%) of respondents said they feel stressed or anxious from heated arguments, and 44% said such arguments impacted their productivity. Just over a third (38%) said they believe they faced negative bias at work because of their political beliefs. On the recruiting front, 58% said they wouldn't interview at companies that publicly supported opposing political beliefs, and 67% of millennials said they would quit their jobs over political differences with their managers, compared to just 15% of respondents ages 50 to 64.
A significant number of employees prefer working for organizations whose values align with their own, according to studies on volunteerism at work and corporate social responsibility (CSR). That may explain why 46% of respondents in the Randstad US poll said it's important to work for employers that take a stand on controversial political issues, and why more than half (56%) said it's important that the charitable or CSR causes employers support mirror their own political values. In a tight labor market, employees have the option of leaving a job on the basis of politics just like work-related issues including pay, benefits and career development.
Opinions on whether political discussions in the workplace are or should be censored were more mixed in a recent Indeed survey. Although more than half of the respondents were comfortable with the current level of political discussion, one in five favored censoring such talk. The question for employers is whether political talk should be censored if it causes workers to feel uncomfortable, discriminated against or alienated to the point that they feel the need to leave entirely.
In the run up to the nationwide midterm elections in November, political discussions will happen. Hot-button issues like immigration policy, LGBTQIA rights and gun rights are sure be on workers' minds. Few employers advocate censorship, which could harm employees' free-speech rights. But HR can draft policies on acceptable workplace conduct and civil discourse. Heated political discussions not only pit workers against each other, but they can also hurt moral and productivity.