The risks of discussing politics at work: How to avoid toxic environments

Half of employees afraid of sharing political views: survey

The risks of discussing politics at work: How to avoid toxic environments

Conversations surrounding politics expose the weaknesses of workplace culture across organisations, putting employment relationships and overall wellbeing at risk, according to a new report.

A recent survey by E-learning Industry found that a majority of employees (64%) said they have seen or engaged in politics-based arguments among co-workers.

The situation has prompted more than half of the respondents (55%) to feel afraid about sharing their political views out of concerns that it could harm their relationships with colleagues.

Another 45% said they are concerned that revealing political beliefs could hurt their chances at promotion.

The situation has escalated to the point where more than a quarter (29%) of employees lied about their political opinion in order to feel welcomed, according to the report.

These findings could be a result of the lack of political expression policy in place, with only 33% of employees saying their company has one implemented.

According to the report, business leaders need to act on navigating "toxic work environments."

Mike MacLellan, partner at CCPartners in Brampton, Ontario, previously spoke with HRD on how HR should deal with political discussions in the workplace.

"You might want to remind employees to keep your discourse civil and respectful in the workplace. That's the main issue," he told HRD.

The findings come as the US gears up for election next year. New Zealand also held its general election last week, which saw the National party defeating the incumbent Labour party.

Employer-employee disconnect over politics

Meanwhile, the conversation surrounding politics also extends to social justice issues, such as climate change, #MeToo Movement, and the Black Lives Matter.

Employers have long been urged to take a stand on such matters - but E-learning Industry found that employees don't necessarily align with such stances.

According to the report, while 49% of employees said their employer has spoken out on politically charged events, only 35% said their political beliefs align with their organisation.

In fact, 41% said they usually disagree with their organisation's stance and 38% said they felt embarrassed by their employer's statement.

These results may stem from a lack of consultation from employers regarding such issues. According to the survey findings, 72% of employees said their employer didn't ask for their opinion before publishing their stance on politics and social issues.

Kevin Kaminyar, founder and CEO of Venice, CA-based Yellow Tree Marketing, previously told HRD that employers should ensure that their political stances don't come off as a "marketing tactic."

"The goal is to make sure that you are as a brand speaking authentically to what the message is and that it aligns with your core value," Kaminyar told HRD.

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