- More than a third of employees (36%) responding to a recent Gartner survey said the topic of the 2020 U.S. presidential election has led them to avoid talking to or working with a co-worker because of their political views. The results reveal a need for HR leaders to help managers minimize the disruptive effects of politics in the workplace, the organization said in announcing the findings Feb. 18.
- Most respondents reported discussing politics at work, and nearly half said the election is dampening their productivity.
- To reduce conflict and maintain productivity, Gartner suggested that employers set policies on appropriate political expression; stress a commitment to diversity and inclusion; and equip managers to support employees and handle conflict.
Employees say political discussions at work have increased in recent years. And because Gartner's findings show that those discussions can lead employees to avoid co-workers — potentially hurting productivity and creating conflict — HR may need to step in.
"Private-sector employees and applicants generally have no constitutional right to free speech, political or otherwise, without fear of employment discipline," Littler Mendelson attorneys Elizabeth A. Lalik and Jeremy F. Wood previously wrote in an op-ed for HR Dive. But employers generally prefer to allow some amount of political talk. To that end, the attorneys recommended that employers draft policies that allow employees to engage in respectful political discourse as long as they don't politically solicit patrons or create a hostile work environment for others.
Google, for example, has attempted just that. In a memo issued in August, the company outlined a five-point policy and said it supports "healthy and open discussion" as part of its culture but that expects employees to communicate in responsible, helpful and thoughtful ways.