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When workplace talk turns political, employees say productivity falls

by | May 11, 2017 | Public Relations

Employees in the U.S. find it increasingly difficult to ignore political discussions in their workplace, and 31% believe political conversations among coworkers decrease their company’s productivity, according to new findings from B2B ratings and reviews firm Clutch.

The study indicates many employees are distracted and negatively impacted by political discussions at work—in fact, 12% of employees surveyed say that they have felt “uncomfortable” by political discussions at work in the past week alone.

Clutch workplace survey

31% believe political conversations among coworkers decrease their company’s productivity

For HR managers, navigating this issue can potentially be as contentious as the political discussions themselves when trying to balance freedom of speech with protecting employees’ rights in the workplace.

Forty-five percent of employees surveyed work at an organization that has a policy or guideline regarding political expression in the workplace. Policies of this type are more common among larger enterprises (5,000-10,000 employees)—67% have some kind of policy or guideline in place.

But employees are not in agreement about these policies—barely one-third of employees surveyed say their organization should have a policy or guideline in place regarding political expression.

Employees who resist policies that restrict political expression may feel their company is trying to micromanage them, and that limiting their freedom to talk politics at work will negatively affect company culture and engagement.

However, among employees who have felt uncomfortable due to political conversations, or who believe their company’s productivity level has decreased as a result of politics, 58% say their company should develop a policy addressing the issue. Employees who feel negatively impacted by politics in the workplace say it is their company’s responsibility to remedy the problem.

HR experts recommend, at the very least, addressing the issue of political expression in the workplace with employees.

Clutch workplace survey

58% say their company should develop a policy addressing the issue

“I think we need to create some kind of policy which talks about behavior and how we communicate,” says Steve Albretch, Ph.D, HR consultant and author, in a news release. “Something that says, ‘We work in the same place. Despite differences in a number of issues, we act as one team and one organization, so we need to be respectful and respected by our peers.’ When discussions about the news turn into arguments, people have the right to address the conflict.”

The survey findings suggest that regardless of whether a formal, written policy, or a brief, conversational approach is right for your company and its employees, this issue should be considered and addressed by company leadership.

Read the complete report here.

Clutch surveyed 1,000 full-time employees to evaluate their experience with political expression in the workplace and company policies affecting political expression. 48% of respondents work at companies with fewer than 200 employees, while 52% work at companies with 201-10,000+ employees. Data was collected throughout February 2017.

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