Gartner Inc.’s February 2021 Post-Election Survey of 3,000 employees revealed that 68% of employees would consider quitting their current job and working with an organization with a stronger viewpoint on the social issues that matter most to them.
The same Gartner HR survey found that employees whose employer has taken a strong stance on current societal and cultural issues are twice as likely to report high job satisfaction.
“Times of social and political change and uncertainty affect individuals across their lives, and introduce distraction, disruption and division into the workplace,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research in the Gartner HR practice. “The recent events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, the U.S. presidential election, Black Lives Matter movement and Brexit, have created numerous opportunities for increased tension among employees.”
To manage employee productivity and engagement during times of social uncertainty and disruption, HR leaders should:
- Help employees understand workplace emotions and manage interactions.
- Create safe spaces for productive conversations.
- Identify ways to take action in line with organizational culture.
Manage Negative Emotions
Current societal and political events elicit a range of powerful emotions. As employees’ work and personal lives continue to blur, it is increasingly difficult to leave emotion out of the workplace. In November 2020, more than one-third of U.S. employees (36%) reported that the U.S. presidential election had led them to argue about politics with co-workers. Forty-four percent of employees said the election had led them to avoid talking to, or working with, a co-worker.
Employees are likely to turn to their managers for support, however many managers are ill-equipped to handle these conversations. Gartner research shows that nearly two thirds of managers (64%) have not been provided with resources for navigating political discussions with the employees they manage.
HR leaders should work with managers to model appropriate behaviors and set the right tone — while reducing the stigma of openly discussing mental well-being — by speaking candidly about their own experience. Leaders, managers and employees are all facing extreme fatigue following a long year of unrest. Managers can clarify work priorities for their team and recalibrate expectations to focus on only the most essential issues now.
Enable Productive Discussions
According to a recent Gartner survey, 84% of U.S. employees reported discussing politics in the workplace. However, it is often difficult for an employee to understand when, where and how to share thoughts and feelings about societal and cultural events. By creating spaces for productive conversations, organizations can provide a forum where employees feel safe to express themselves. However, HR leaders must establish standards and norms of communication, encourage employees to focus on common goals and set examples of respect and civility.
As HR leaders consider how to manage these conversations, it is important to consider the balance between formal conversations led by leadership and informal, small-group or one-on-one conversations between individual employees.
“Organizations operating in a hybrid or largely remote working environment should carefully consider how to create opportunities for dialogue among employees that don’t escalate emotional reactions or increase communication fatigue,” said Mr. Kropp.
Communicate an Action Plan to Employees
In the U.S., over two-thirds (69%) of employees were very satisfied when their organizations took action in response to the protests and demonstrations against racial injustice, compared to 50% who were very satisfied when their organizations issued a public statement. HR leaders can work with their communications leaders and other internal stakeholders to communicate to employees a message that does four things:
- Acknowledges employees’ distraction and feelings and shares resources with employees and managers on how to handle stress and conflict.
- Shares a plan for productive conversations.
- Reiterates the organization’s core values.
- Identifies future steps the organization will take.
Gartner clients can read more in the reports “How to Address Politics and Drive Engagement in the Modern Workplace.”
About the Gartner HR Practice
The Gartner HR practice brings together the best relevant content approaches across Gartner to offer individual decision makers strategic business advice on the mission-critical priorities that cut across the HR function. Additional information is available at http://www.gartner.com/en/human-resources/human-resources-leaders. Follow news and updates from the Gartner HR practice on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GartnerHR.