Since today, November 6, 2018, is officially Election Day the Rules of Thumb blog from MoneyThumb decided this was the perfect time to discuss division among the employees of your accounting firm caused by the current political climate. A study by Randstad, who commissioned more than 800 U.S. employees, gleaned some interesting results about politics in the workplace.
Just over half of employees (55%) said they’ve witnessed heated political discussions or arguments between colleagues in the workplace, and more than a third said that they’ve been involved in them. Another 44 percent of respondents said that their coworkers regularly discuss politics through digital channels. In some instances, these interactions culminate in passive forms of retaliation, especially among younger employees. For instance, while slightly fewer than half (46%) of all employees reported unfollowing colleagues on social media because of their political posts, that percentage rose to 62 percent among millennials.
72 percent of employees said that they feel stressed or anxious when heated political discussions or arguments occur in the workplace. Not surprisingly, all of that psychological and emotional freight is a burden for businesses, too. Indeed, 44 percent of respondents said that heated political discussions or arguments impact their productivity. However, not all employees are squeamish when it comes to on-the-job political exchanges: 65 percent said they feel comfortable discussing politics with their colleagues, according to the study. Beyond that, almost half (49%) of workers reportedly enjoy hashing out political differences with colleagues at work, as it helps them understand different perspectives. And, in what is perhaps the most encouraging sign of all, more than a third (37%) of employees said they have changed their opinions on political issues because of discussions they have had with colleagues.
In other words, there are significant potential benefits — greater team cohesiveness, more openness, and dialogue, to name a few — to be gained from encouraging employees to engage in political conversations. Just make sure your accounting firm is doing it in a structured, managed environment, with broad-based senior-level support. As this study by Randstad makes plain, it’s simply unrealistic to think that a clean partition between political conversation and neutral workplace banter is possible.
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