Business men and women talkingAccording to a recent study of couples on the work-and-home-life impact of political discussions in the office, talking politics at work can actually strengthen a worker’s job satisfaction and his or her commitment to the organization. These benefits are only if the discussion is “an exchange of perspectives” with “give and take,” as opposed to “political pressuring” to agree with a manager’s political ideas.

The Nov. 1 study of 304 workers and their spouses was conducted by two professors at Utah State University’s Jon M. Huntsman School of Business: Merideth J. Ferguson, assistant professor of management and human resources expert and John Ferguson, lecturer of management and expert on the First Amendment and ethics.

“Political speech at work is not necessarily a bad thing,” said Ferguson. “In fact, when supervisors engage employees in a political discussion characterized by a sense of ‘give and take,’ those subordinates experience more job satisfaction and higher commitment to the organization.”

Results also showed just how much political discussions at work can influence an employee’s life outside the office, including family life. Openly talking about politics can positively affect a worker’s family life, while “political pressuring” conversations can have negative effects.

Possible negative effects include:

  • Defiance against a supervisor
  • Work-family conflicts
  • Spouses concluding employees will look elsewhere for work
  • Employees considering ways of getting revenge on the coworkers if colleagues engage in political pressuring

Forty percent of the participants reported their supervisors pressuring them to accept his or her political ideas and perspective; 55 percent reported a coworker pressuring them to do the same (accept coworker’s views). Reversely, 55 percent reported to having a “give and take” conversation about politics with supervisors, while 79 percent reported the same type of conversation with a colleague.

“So many workplaces have policies in place restricting political speech, but with no real research to support these restrictions,” said Ferguson. “Many workplaces and workers could be missing out on the benefits of political discussion, especially when that discussion is handled appropriately.”

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