A new survey by Fierce, Inc., has found that over 78 percent of employees think that political discussions in the workplace are detrimental to professional relationships, leading to increased tension among coworkers. Over one-quarter of these respondents feel that these conversations can either temporarily or even permanently harm work relationships. However, about 80.4 percent of survey participants don’t want their ability to discuss politics stymied by their employers.
Specific risks, identified in the survey, that political workplace discussions pose include:
• 39.8 percent of employees have seen a political discussion transition into a personal attack.
• 29 percent of workers believe that managers play favorites with subordinates who express similar political views.
• 54 percent of respondents said that political discussions are not healthy and damage communications.
• 13.7 percent said that political discussions can lead to the exclusion of some coworkers.
“Although political discussions at work may cause discomfort and tension, management should never outlaw specific topics of conversation,” said Halley Bock, CEO and president of Fierce, Inc. “Employees will inevitably discuss politics, whether it is allowed or not, so forward-thinking organizations should set guidelines for how to approach the subject of politics and what is acceptable behavior.”
Instead of muzzling political discussions in the workplace, Fierce recommends employers limit time spent in discussion and set expectations on how to interact during exchanges. Rules should focus on making issues the focus on political conversations, not individuals, encouraging employees to keep their minds open to other opinions, and on calling out damaging behavior to offending employees on a one-to-one basis.