This year's extraordinary presidential campaign is taking a toll on American workers, some of whom report feeling stressed, argumentative and less productive because of political discussions on the job, according to a survey released Sept. 14 by the American Psychological Association.
More than 1 in 4 younger employees reported feeling stressed out because of political discussions at work, and more than twice as many men as women said political talk is making them less productive, according to the survey from APA's Center for Organizational Excellence. The "Politics in the Workplace: 2016 Election Season" survey was conducted online on APA's behalf by Harris Poll from Aug. 10-12, 2016, among 927 U.S. adults who are employed full or part time.
Men were more likely than women, and younger workers (ages 18-34) were more likely than older generations, to have experienced negative consequences of political discussions at work this election season, the survey found. This includes having difficulty getting work done, producing lower-quality work and being less productive overall. Similarly, these groups were more likely to have said that because of political discussions at work, they feel more isolated from their colleagues, have a more negative view of them and have experienced an increase in workplace hostility. Compared to women, men were more than four times as likely to report having argued about politics with a coworker (18 percent vs. 4 percent).
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. Although a majority of working Americans (60 percent) indicated that people at work are generally respectful toward others with differing political views, more than a quarter (26 percent) have witnessed or overheard their coworkers arguing about politics, and about 1 in 10 (11 percent) have gotten into an argument themselves. 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.
"The workplace brings people together from different backgrounds who might not ordinarily interact with each other. When you add politics to the mix -- a deeply personal and emotional topic for many -- there is potential for tension, conflict and problems for both employees and the organization," said David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, director of APA's Center for Organizational Excellence.
Other key findings from the survey:
Despite the differences in the way political discussions are affecting certain categories of employees, there are some groups that are surprisingly similar. Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, the survey found few differences across political party or philosophy when it comes to how the 2016 election is affecting American workers.
"Regardless of political identification, the heated discussions and divisive rhetoric this election season have the potential to take a toll on people's well-being and even affect their job performance," Ballard said. "While employers may not be able to limit political discussions in the workplace, they can take steps to ensure those conversations take place in a civil, respectful environment. A psychologically healthy workplace is particularly critical during challenging and polarizing times, and these survey results highlight the fact that despite conventional wisdom, people are often more alike than they are different."
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