Gartner Research

Executive Pulse: Politics Enters the Workplace and Won’t Leave

Published: 15 October 2020


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While risk management and audit leaders see the COVID-19 surge and challenges related to remote work as top emerging threats, political divisions in the U.S. are making it difficult for executives there to focus on their jobs. They are discussing politics at work and getting into arguments more often than last year — at higher rates than employees at lower echelons.

Half of those at the executive level say the election is having a big impact on their ability to get work done — compared with only 16% of managers and individual contributors, according to our September survey of 500 U.S. employees, 54 of whom described themselves as executives (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Impact on Ability to Get Work Done

Just 24% of executive respondents to the sentiment poll told us in December 2019 that they often spent time discussing politics at work. This rose to 44% in September of this year — compared with just 17% of the managers and individual contributors (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Executives Discussing Politics at Work

And those conversations at the upper rungs of the corporate ladder are increasingly laced with discord; 57% of executives in the September survey reported that they have had an election-related argument with coworkers, compared to 31% at the individual contributor and manager level.

Employee expectations for civic engagement have also increased. Back in February, 44% of U.S. employees said that it was important their organization provide them with additional paid time off to vote. This jumped to 65% in September, when employees also reported on ways their employers were encouraging voter participation, including:

  • Information on voting locations and times (43%)

  • Flexible work options on election day (41%)

  • Emails reminding employees to vote (40%)

  • Voter registration information (39%)

  • A voter registration drive (37%)

Reporting on these voter participation initiatives increased in every category since February (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Voter Participation Initiatives

Globally, those responsible for spotting new risks are also concerned about how the outcome of the U.S. race will affect business conditions.

In aSeptember webinar poll of 737 assurance executives assessing risks related to the U.S. elections, 57% were concerned about market stability and 49% worried about the geopolitical implications, such as the role of U.S. leadership in the world and tensions with China.

Other issues on their list include (see Figure 4):

  • Regulatory and/or policy changes (46%)

  • Social risks (42%)

  • Pandemic response policy (40%)

Figure 4: Election Risks

Assurance executives have considered a range of scenarios, including the possibility of a contested election (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: Preparing for Election Results

In a survey of 119 assurance and finance leaders during August and September, the number one concern was the impact of a second wave of COVID-19, which has arrived. The 2020 presidential election was ranked fourth.

  • HR

  • Audit and risk management

Compiled by Daniel Ryntjes

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