Political Tension Paves its Way from Campaign Trails to the Office: How to Maintain Peace at Work?

July 18, 20168:08 am378 views

As the race for the White House sees the Republican and Democratic candidates heading to their national conventions, political tension is making its way from the campaign trail into the office.

According to a new CareerBuilder survey, 3 in 10 employers (30 percent) and nearly 1 in 5 employees (17 percent) have argued with a co-worker over a particular candidate this election season, most often about presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

More than 3,200 workers and more than 1,900 managers in the private sector across industries participated in the nationwide survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 11 to June 7, 2016.

“With passions running high this political season, individuals run the risk of saying things or behaving in ways that can be considered unprofessional or discriminatory towards each other,” said Rosemary Haefner, Chief Human Resources Officer for CareerBuilder.

Bringing the Political Debates to the Office

Management is more likely than employees to argue about candidates, with employers in Information Technology (47 percent) taking the lead, followed by those in manufacturing (37 percent).

  • IT: 47 percent
  • Manufacturing: 37 percent
  • Professional and Business Services: 30 percent
  • Financial Services: 29 percent
  • Health Care: 24 percent
  • Retail: 23 percent

Overall, 19 percent of employers have argued with a co-worker over Donald Trump vs. 17 percent over Hillary Clinton. While both male and female employers say they have debated with a co-worker over Trump most (22 percent of men, 16 percent of women), men are nearly twice as likely as women to say they’ve argued with a co-worker over Clinton (21 percent vs. 11 percent).

When it comes to employees, 13 percent have argued with a co-worker over Donald Trump and 8 percent have argued over Hillary Clinton. Male employees (20 percent) reported a higher incidence of arguing politics at work than female employees (15 percent). Comparing age groups, younger workers (ages 18-24) are the most likely to report engaging in heated political debates at work at 24 percent.

See: 5 Types of Annoying Coworkers and How to Deal with Them

Does Political Correctness Help or Hurt the Workplace?

Workers are often urged to remain politically correct, but according to most, their workplaces are censoring them too much. Half of workers (50 percent) and nearly 6 in 10 employers (59 percent) believe the workplace has become too politically correct in America, and a third of employees (33 percent) are afraid to voice certain opinions because they feel they may not be considered politically correct.

More than half of workers (55 percent) describe their workplace or management (59 percent) as politically correct.

And although more than a fifth of workers (22 percent) say political correctness has made their business stronger, more than a third (34 percent) say it has hindered business, making people tiptoe around issues and afraid to speak their minds instead of addressing the issues head on.

Tips to Keep Peace at Work

While most workers choose to keep political debates outside of the workplace, those who like a little healthy debate should keep it at that – healthy. To avoid letting political talk turn sour, Haefner says managers should:

  • Recognize there’s a thin line between freedom of expression and a potential source of conflict. Consider providing respect and dignity behavioural training to all employees and emphasize tolerance for different ideas, beliefs and needs.
  • Ensure your harassment policies and harassment complaint system are posted and that employees are trained in the process. Similarly, make sure employees are aware of any guidelines that prohibit bringing campaign materials into the office.
  • Create a culture of open dialogue and mutual respect, but if conversations do turn heated, encourage employees to walk away.

“The tip to navigating the rough waters during election season is to make sure your conversations are fair and respectful. If you feel like political chit-chat is getting heated or confrontational, it’s time to walk away.”

Also read: How to Move Talented Employees Within Your Organisation?

Image credit: wsj.com

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