Seattle leadership consulting company Fierce Inc. surveyed employees and tells us they're going mano-a-mano over politics during the workday. This finding isn't too surprising given that we're less than two weeks away from a presidential election. Employees are talking politics because it's what everyone is talking about and thinking about right now unless he or she is a dreaded "low-information" voter or worse, an "undecided" voter who, for some unfathomable reason, still can't make up his or her mind. Who are these people!? The mind wobbles.
Anyway, back to Fierce Inc.'s survey, which reveals that more than three-fourths (78%) of employees see workplace political discussions as a source of tension. After all, employees can't simply "unfriend" co-workers in adjoining cubicles who talk too much about politics. They can hide them or hide from them as much as possible, though. You're really voting for that guy? AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
But it gets even better, because more than one-fourth (26.6%) of the employees Fierce surveyed think political conversations are "temporarily harming or permanently damaging" work relationships, while more than one-third (38.9%) have watched a political discussion turn into a personal attack in recent months. You're really voting for that guy, you lazy slob who always leaves a big mess in the break room!?
More than half of the employees surveyed (54%) think political discussions aren't healthy, if only because 29% think management is favoring employees who share their political views. You're really voting for that guy, you smart, wonderful employee I should suddenly promote as soon as possible!?
I've written a few articles over the years advising employers to put some rules in place around employees' political talk at work, but there's really no way for employers to put a cork in it entirely. In fact, more than three-fourths of employees (80%) in the Fierce survey do not want employers to forbid political talk at work. Your co-workers may by tired of your political commentary, but it doesn't necessarily mean they want a company-wide ban imposed on it. Freedom of expression, and all of that.
So employees are going to talk politics to some extent -- both on and off the clock, and in the break room while exploding food in the microwave. Simply ask them to keep political talk respectful, to do it preferably on their breaks because politics gets everyone riled up, and to refrain from talking politics in front of customers unless you want to risk turning them into former customers. Use common sense.
Employees' personal political paradigms, or lack thereof, could alter employees opinions of each other, and the hatchets may not be buried in time for Secret Santas. What do you mean you're not going to bother voting because both presidential candidates are essentially one and the same!?
It's hard to believe Nov. 6 is almost here. It feels like it's been a long time coming, and we'll all be glad when it's over. Let's hope our workplace-inflicted political wounds can heal before someone finally gets around to cleaning the break room microwave.