While almost half believe respectful socio-political discourse should be encouraged to nurture an inclusive and diverse company culture, they also fear the consequences of discussing politics at work.
New York, New York: Leading HR technology disruptor HiBob is releasing the results of its latest study, “Socio-Politics in the U.S. Workplace,” revealing the complexity of navigating socio-political discourse at work. The research showed the majority (61%) of employees and managers believe socio-political discussions should be kept out of the office, with 66% agreeing these discussions should be avoided in company communication channels like Slack, too. Despite this, 48% of respondents feel respectful socio-political discourse should be encouraged to nurture an inclusive and diverse company culture, and 81% say that socio-political topics need to be discussed in a safe space and include voicing opposing opinions respectfully.
“The well-defined boundaries between professional and personal life have blurred considerably as
smartphones and personal devices have become ubiquitous and social media is used for both professional and personal purposes. In parallel, the political environment in the United States has become increasingly charged and polarized, and our research indicates that a person’s political opinions can impact their career,” said Ronni Zehavi, co-founder, and CEO of HiBob. “Likewise, companies are increasingly asked to take a stance on political and ideological issues ranging from environmental concerns to racial tensions and support for specific candidates. But free speech doesn’t necessarily mean hate speech, and HiBob’s survey found that respondents want the option to discuss politics in a respectful and safe manner.”
Politics impacts employer brand for different employee groups
Despite demands for more companies to demonstrate their activism and greater purpose, the research revealed a company’s political stance can significantly impact people’s willingness to work at a company or increase the likelihood of leaving a company. In fact, 39% of respondents say that an opposing opinion would deter them from accepting a company offer and 29% shared that it will prompt them to leave a company. This was particularly true for men, younger workers, and parents:
- Forty-three percent of men feel a company’s political stance that doesn’t align with their own would be a deterrent from joining compared to 35% of women, and 35% of men say it would cause them to leave compared to only 23% of women.
- Forty-three percent of workers ages 35-44 say they would leave a company whose political stance opposed their own, compared to 17% of workers ages 54+. Additionally, 47% of respondents ages 25-44 say that an opposing political opinion would discourage them from joining a company, compared to only 30% of respondents ages 54+.
- Forty-four percent of parents say they would be deterred from joining a company whose political stance opposed their own, and 36% say that they would leave a company compared with 39% and 27% of non-parents.
Where should socio-political issues be discussed?
Most respondents (61%) feel that socio-political discussions should be kept out of the office because they can negatively affect company culture. Only 19% disagree or think that socio-political discussions can be conducted in the workplace.
- Young respondents aged 25-34 were more likely to disagree that socio-political discussions should not appear in a company’s digital communication channels than their older counterparts.
- The majority of participants (57%) feel that socio-political discussions should not only be kept out of company communication channels but should also be kept out of personal-professional social media channels.
Additionally, the study also asked respondents if they think employees should be actively prevented from posting political opinions on personal-professional social media channels:
- Respondents ages 35-44 stand out, with 50% feeling a company should prevent employees from posting political opinions, compared to 42% in all other age groups.
- Parents are also more likely to think companies should prevent political posts, with 46% of parents agreeing that companies should do so, compared to 39% of non-parents.
These preferences further extend the remit and responsibility of companies to manage how their employees communicate at work and online.
The ramifications of discussing politics in the workplace
The study also revealed employees’ perceptions about the consequences of sharing their political opinions with managers and colleagues. A sizable portion of employees feel that having an opposing view would negatively impact their position within a company, their relationships with colleagues and team productivity. Younger respondents were more likely to feel this way, possibly due to older respondents having more seniority and tenure.
- Forty-two percent feel that sharing a political opinion their manager disagrees with could harm their position in the company, with men being more likely than women to feel that way (46% compared to 39% of women).
- Younger respondents were more likely to feel that sharing an opinion their manager disagrees with could hurt them, with 48% and 49% of respondents ages 25-44 feeling that it could, compared to only 34% of respondents ages 54+
- Half of the respondents say that sharing their political opinions could harm their relationships with colleagues and negatively affect their team productivity.
The results demonstrate a lack of safety around discussing socio-political opinions at work, making it difficult for employees to bring their full, authentic self to work and create a safe space for opposing beliefs.
How should socio-political issues be discussed in the workplace?
Despite concerns about posting on company communication channels and social media, almost half of survey participants (48%) feel that respectful socio-political discourse should be encouraged to nurture an inclusive and diverse company culture.
Younger respondents were much more likely to think that respectful socio-political discourse should be encouraged than their older counterparts. Similarly, managers were significantly more likely to agree that civil discussion should be encouraged to nurture an inclusive and diverse company culture (55% compared to 42% of respondents who aren’t managers).
The need for a safe space to voice opinions respectfully
Most respondents feel that socio-political topics need to be discussed in a safe space where opposing opinions can be voiced considerately.
“In our politically charged world, everything is seen through a political lens. Despite a strong sentiment that socio-politics should be left out of the office and channels for company communications during charged times such as national elections, global conflict, economic downturns, climate events, or a pandemic, socio-political discussions in the workplace can’t be avoided altogether,” Zehavi added. “People-first companies can’t ignore the issue—doing so can result in broken working relationships and damage cultural safety. That is why companies need to set clear guidelines for respectful discourse and create safe spaces where discourse can take place. Doing so is key to creating a supportive, inclusive work environment for all employees, regardless of political opinions.”
The national survey was conducted online by Pollfish on behalf of HiBob in January 2023. It includes responses from 2,000 full-time employees aged 25 and over. The survey measured the views of male (45.8%) and female (54.2%) respondents.
For more information, please visit: https://www.hibob.com/research/sociopolitics-in-the-us-workplace/