Impact of Political Conversations at Work on Employee Productivity

May 15, 20178:46 am731 views

Nearly a third of employees report decrease in productivity, due to political conversations at work, according to a recent Clutch survey, a leading B2B ratings and reviews site.

Employees in the US find it increasingly difficult to ignore political discussions in their workplace, and 31 percent believe political conversations among coworkers decrease their company’s productivity. The findings reveal that many employees are distracted and negatively impacted by political discussions at work.

12 percent of employees surveyed say that in the past week they have felt ‘uncomfortable’ by political discussions at work. 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.

To help HR professionals better manage political issues between employees, Clutch surveyed 1,000 full-time employees on their experience with company policies regarding political expression in the workplace.

Forty-five percent (45 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 percent 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 percent say their company should develop a policy addressing the issue. Employees who feel negatively impacted by politics in the workplace say it is the 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.

See: Annoying Behaviours at Work: How to Avoid Them?

“I think we need to create some kind of policy which talks about behaviour and how we communicate,” says Steve Albretch, Ph.D, HR Consultant and author. “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.

Why should HR managers consider developing a political expression policy?

Many HR managers have turned to crafting policies or guidelines regarding political expression at the workplace, in the hopes of deterring the negative effects of the election cycle on employee productivity and comfort. In deciding whether or not to develop a policy, it helps to understand what kinds of companies already have one.

More companies have a policy than those that do not. This finding is consistent with a recent survey by SHRM(Society of Human Resources), which shows that while many HR managers have decided to address this issue with a policy, others are less certain, or have gone another route.

The tendency to develop a policy is more prevalent at large enterprises than in small businesses, since large enterprises more commonly face lawsuits over discrimination and unionization than small businesses. Small businesses on the other hand have an advantage of being  able to interact one on one with employees more readily than leaders at large companies can, often catching disagreements before a formal policy is necessary.

Further large companies have access to more resources to dedicate, to developing a political expression policy and hiring HR personnel to carry out a policy. One major bonus to creating a policy is that when employees feel more comfortable speaking their minds, a company is able to cultivate a more diverse, open culture.

Formal, strict policies advise employers to add a written section regarding political expression in standing employee documentation. These polices include things like monitoring employee social media accounts, or limiting an employee’s ability to publically engage with politics in campaigns, protests, or rally’s in their spare time.

Also read: Six tips for HRs to deal with workplace politics

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