The 2016 presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was one of the most divisive in recent history. With coworkers often having conflicting views, it created a lot of negativity in the workplace. This resulted in a loss of productivity and ultimately profitability for many companies.
Not to mention it raised several HR-related questions like what boundaries employers can put in place to prevent things from getting out of hand. If the election has caused upheaval in your workplace, there are a few things you can do to get your operations back on track.
Some Interesting Statistics
The American Psychological Association (APA) took an in-depth look at the 2016 election season to determine just how much it was affecting U.S. workplaces. Here are some key statistics they found:
- 1 in 4 U.S. employees have been negatively affected by political talk at work this election season, with younger workers in particular experiencing diminished productivity and more stress.
- Among all workers surveyed, nearly half (47 percent) said people are more likely to discuss politics in the workplace this election season than in the past.
- Overall, more than a quarter of working Americans (27 percent) reported at least one negative outcome as a result of political discussions at work during this election season.
- 1 in 5 (20 percent) reported avoiding some coworkers because of their political views.
- More than twice as many men as women said political talk is making them less productive.
An Obvious Negative Impact
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Examining the APA survey in further detail makes it abundantly clear that discussing opposing political views can create negativity in the workplace. When left unchecked, this can wreak havoc on your business long-term. It hurts team chemistry, creates additional stress and makes your workplace less functional overall.
Although it’s over and the storm has passed, you may still find the election affecting your workplace. You may also find that politics, in general, to be bad for business.
What Can You Do?
It all starts with establishing policies that prohibit political-based discussions in your workplace. Wondering if this violates The First Amendment? While it’s true that people have the right to free speech in their everyday lives, the workplace is an exception.
An article from Virginia Tech states, “The First Amendment does not apply to employees in the private sector. Employees do not even have the right to discuss non-work related issues at all. ” As long as it’s not discriminatory, you have the right to eliminate any type of discussion that could be deemed as disruptive to operations or create an uncivilized workplace.
Also make it clear to employees that you won’t tolerate politically charged conversation that’s not respectful of the views of others. There are a myriad of topics that employees can discuss, but politics isn’t one of them.
If there’s an instance when an employee needs to be disciplined for crossing the line, seek proper legal counsel for going through with it. This should protect you from any messy litigation.
The 2016 election reminded us of just how divided we can be. It also shows us the negative impact that opposing employee views can have on businesses. If you found the election affecting your workplace, it’s time to implement policies that prevent this problem from persisting.