Especially in these divisive times, it’s important to remember: no one cares to hear your political views, especially in the office.
The American Psychological Association released the “2017 Work and Well-Being Survey: Special Focus on Politics,” an online questionnaire of 1311 adults taken between February 16 and March 8 of this year.
The APA’s most surprising finding: political discussions in the office are taking a toll on workers’ productivity and well-being — especially since November 2016.
“Half of the post-election survey respondents (54 percent) said they have discussed politics at work since the election, and for 40 percent of American workers, it has caused at least one negative outcome, such as reduced productivity, poorer work quality, difficulty getting work done, a more negative view of coworkers, feeling tense or stressed out, or increased workplace hostility.”
And yes, this political stress at work is new, the APA said: “This is a significant increase from the pre-election survey data, when one in four (27 percent) reported at least one negative outcome.”
This topic has caused more people to struggle at work since the 2016 presidential election than before it took place. So here’s how to work through (and directly address) political talk at your job.
How political talk is affecting workers
According to the survey, 31% reported having seen coworkers fighting about politics, 15% reported having personally been in a disagreement about it, and 24% reported having “avoided some coworkers because of their political views.”
Fifteen percent reported having trouble “getting work done,” 13% reported that “their work quality has suffered,” and 14% reported having “been less productive.”
The survey also points out that many more women workers said they felt “more cynical and negative” during business hours “since the election,” adding that 9% felt that way before it, compared to 20% afterward. Twenty percent of male workers said they felt “cynical and negative” beforehand, compared to 23% afterward.
How to manage political chat at work
Politics are bound to come up at some point— whether you’re a manager or employee, here’s what to do.
Mangers should encourage inclusivity
David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, director of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, commented on the importance of making everyone feel welcome at work, regardless of their political views.
“Whether it’s about politics or any other difficult conversation on the job, managers and supervisors need to create a work climate where people with diverse opinions and backgrounds can work together toward common goals without their differences creating a toxic environment,” Ballard said in a statement.
If you speak up about politics, know when to move on
You have the right to let others know how you’re feeling— especially if it’s getting in the way of your performance.
In a 2012 Forbes article, Steve Cooper writes about how to navigate politics at work, and includes advice from Diane Gottsman, owner of The Protocol School of Texas.
As Gottsman points out, people can have different beliefs without using demeaning language, but if you have a bad feeling about where the conversation could go, you should say this: “‘please excuse me, the tone of this conversation is too aggressive and makes me uncomfortable.’ Then either excuse yourself to another conversation or another room.” Unless your political rival wishes to literally chase you, you’ll be safe — and you’ll have learned your lesson about who to talk to about politics.
Political stress is real, so take care of yourself
No matter what job you have, don’t forget to stay in tune with how you’re feeling in these moments.
Ballard wrote about how employees should rely on healthy methods to manage political discussions in the office in a March 2017 Harvard Business Review article.
“Lastly, monitor your stress level and find healthy ways to manage it. Be aware of the types of things that typically stress you out. It may sound basic, but taking care of yourself, by eating right, drinking plenty of water, getting enough sleep, and engaging in regular physical activity, can go a long way…” Ballard wrote.
Don’t let political debates at work dictate your health. Be sure to pay attention to what your body is telling you, and to get moving if you feel overwhelmed by all the chatter.