We all know that talking politics with friends and family can lead to all sorts of problems--particularly when there's disagreement in political points of view. The current election cycle has been especially polarizing, with political discourse raised to an entirely new level of fractiousness and discord.
It's not surprising to find out that a survey of workers recently released by the American Psychological Association revealed that 1 in 4 employees are negatively affected by political talk on the job. These workers report higher levels of workplace hostility--including arguments among coworkers--feeling stressed, more isolated from their colleagues, and less productive as a result of political discussions at work.
Says David Ballard of the APA, "The workplace brings people together from different backgrounds who might not ordinarily interact with each other. When you add politics to the mix--a deeply personal and emotional topic for many--there is potential for tension, conflict and problems for both employees and the organization."
Here are some of the key findings from the survey:
- Men and younger workers were more likely to experience negative consequences from political discussions at work.
- More than half of the workers (54%) reported that they avoid discussing politics with their colleagues.
- More than twice as many men (28%) as women (13%) report that they regularly discuss politics with coworkers, and 18% of men report that workplace hostility has increased because of political discussions at work.
- One-fifth (20%) of workers said that they avoid certain coworkers because of their political views. In the case of younger employees (ages 18-34), this number rises to 28%.
- Political discussions at work stress out 17% of workers. For younger workers (ages 18-34), this number rises to 28%.
- 1 out of 10 workers (10%) report that political discussions on the job make their work quality suffer. However, 21% of younger workers (ages 18-34) report that political discussions cause their work quality to suffer.
While you can't and shouldn't try to prevent political discussions at work, you should insist that employees respect one another's viewpoints and avoid hostile or heated exchanges that can cause discord within teams and negative job performance.
Every business depends on teams and teamwork. Don't allow politics to destroy what you've got--you really can't afford it.