New Survey Reveals How U.S. Politics Are Affecting Workforce Morale and What Employers Can Do About It
SAN FRANCISCO – Dec. 11, 2019 – American men are more willing to engage in political conversations with co-workers but also more likely to be affected by U.S. political volatility at work, according to new research released today by Reflektive, the leading performance management platform.
The survey of more than 1,000 U.S. employees also revealed which topics Americans find most uncomfortable to discuss with co-workers, which topics lead to the most heated debates at work, and what resources would be most effective for dealing with tense conversations in the workplace.
“It’s concerning that half of the American workforce is worried that disagreeing with their managers about politics might have repercussions for their career,” said Reflektive CEO Greg Brown. “As an employer, you want your employees to have diversity of thought. Your job isn’t to suppress this, but you do need HR, leadership and management to set the boundaries, communicate them to employees, and lead by example.”
Trump at Work
Almost a third of American workers (32%) say they needed a mental health day after the 2016 election. And when it comes to creating discord in the workplace, it’s still Trump for the win: according to the survey, the 45th U.S. president provokes the most heated, angry debates between American co-workers. The other most loaded topics include racism, religion and U.S. politics generally.
Many Americans plan to take a day off if Trump is impeached — 43% of men and 24% of women for mental health and 49% of men and 42% of women to celebrate.
Significantly more men (67%) than women (46%) engage in political conversations at work, and perhaps it is for this reason that more men (56%) than women (43%) say the current U.S. political volatility affects them at work. For example:
- More men (56%) than women (40%) worry that disagreeing with the political views of their boss or co-workers could negatively bias their performance review.
- Twice as many men (30%) as women (15%) say the impeachment hearings may affect their work performance.
- Twice as many men (26%) as women (12%) say it will be difficult to go to work the day after the 2020 election, regardless of who wins.
- More men (58%) than women (49%) say that if their candidate loses the 2020 election, it will affect their performance at work.
Men and Women at the Water Cooler
The survey suggests that women are more hesitant to engage in any potentially contentious conversations in the workplace. While many men enjoy discussing the economy (30%), current U.S. events (29%), and even U.S. politics (23%) and President Trump (23%) with co-workers, almost a third of women (31%) say they don’t enjoy discussing any potentially divisive topics at work.
As for the most uncomfortable topics to discuss at work, President Trump makes the top five but doesn’t top the list for men or women:
- Abortion 35%
- Religion 31%
- Racism 30%
- Sex 30%
- President Trump 30%
- Racism 30%
- Religion 27%
- Sex 24%
- Abortion 23%
- President Trump 20%
Employees Lack Conflict Resolution Tools and Skills
More than a quarter (26%) of Americans say they can’t discuss politics with their co-workers without the conversation getting heated, and even more don’t feel that they have the tools (38%) or the skills (27%) to resolve a conflict at work about U.S. politics — or any other emotionally charged topic.
To resolve a conflict at work, American workers would find a one-on-one discussion with their boss or co-worker (30%) or objective HR person (23%) most helpful. Close to one-fourth (23%) of the respondents would find a defined process to handle conflict most helpful — although many would settle for an open bar (18%) or cannabis (13%).
About half (52%) of Americans say they know their co-workers’ political affiliations:
- 41% believe most of their co-workers share their political views.
- 26% believe most of their co-workers don’t share their political views.
- 21% feel their co-workers’ political affiliations affect their job performance.
- More women (40%) than men (26%) don’t know about their co-workers’ politics.
More than half of men (51%) think it’s appropriate for companies to publicly support political parties or projects. More than two-thirds (70%) of women disagree.
“Politics don’t make for ideal workplace conversation, but it’s natural for employees to want to share, discuss and process their feelings about current events,” said Rachel Ernst, vice president of employee success at Reflektive. “The important thing is to make sure employees understand the parameters around these conversations so they aren’t causing disruption or making colleagues feel psychologically unsafe.”
Reflektive is a performance management company built for top performers and growing businesses. With Reflektive, you can scale constructive, ongoing conversations that keep your people and your business continuously improving. More than 500 forward-thinking customers — including Allbirds, PagerDuty, Pinterest, Privia Health, and Protective Life Insurance — trust Reflektive to modernize people and performance management. Backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Venture Partners and TPG Growth, Reflektive has raised more than $100 million to date and was ranked the 13th Fastest Growing Company in North America on Deloitte’s 2018 Technology Fast 500™. For more information, please visit staging.reflektive.com.