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Should Politics Be Kept Out of the Office? Fifth of Workers Have Fallen Out Over Political Beliefs

As the UK gears up for the general election on July 4th, a new survey has revealed that nearly a fifth (17 per cent) of workers have clashed with colleagues or managers over opposing political views.

The survey of 2,000 UK employees explored opinions on political expression in the workplace, with a significant portion of respondents advocating for or against such discussions.

A substantial 31 per cent of employees reported feeling uncomfortable expressing political opinions at work. There was also a 19 per cent annual increase in those who believe socio-political discussions should be excluded from the workplace due to their negative impact on company culture.

Interestingly, 59 per cent of Gen Z workers (aged 18-24) support the encouragement of respectful political discussions at work. This age group also reported more conflicts over political views, with 24 per cent having fallen out with colleagues as a result. Conversely, 65 per cent of employees aged 25 and over disagreed with voicing political opinions in the workplace. Despite these generational differences, a majority (72 per cent) of all employees agreed that political discussions should occur in a safe space where differing opinions are respected.

Chris Preston, director of The Culture Builders, highlighted the importance of respectful dialogue with ownership of impact. He stated, “Good, strong cultures allow different opinions to flourish, but with two very important factors in place – respect and ownership.”

Genevieve Nock, group HR director at New Directions, emphasised the importance of freedom of expression within reason, suggesting that open dialogue fosters transparency and respect for diverse viewpoints, leading to greater employee engagement and satisfaction.

Despite supporting political expression, Gen Z employees were the least comfortable openly sharing their voting intentions, with only 43 per cent feeling at ease doing so. Additionally, 20 per cent of younger employees worried about political discussions at work, although they believed such conversations made them feel supported (22 per cent), heard (19 per cent), and empowered (14 per cent).

Steve Nicholls, managing director of Executive Connexions, noted that Gen Z’s preference for open dialogue may stem from their upbringing in a digitally connected world. However, he cautioned that political discussions could create conflict and reduce productivity. Nicholls suggested structured, moderated forums for discussion and clear guidelines on respectful behaviour as a balance.

Anthony Sutton, director of Cream HR, pointed out that Gen Z’s tendency to vote Labour might explain their desire for open political discussions due to dissatisfaction with the current political climate. He added that attempts to ban such discussions are likely to backfire.

Peter Duris, CEO and Co-founder of Kickresume, recommended creating an atmosphere of mutual respect for political conversations. He noted that outright bans could frustrate employees and make them feel micromanaged.

In summary, while political discussions at work can be contentious, fostering an environment of respect and open dialogue can enhance understanding and engagement. Companies must balance allowing expression with maintaining productivity and harmony.

Read more:
Should Politics Be Kept Out of the Office? Fifth of Workers Have Fallen Out Over Political Beliefs

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