November 18, 2020
November 18, 2020
Contributor: Brian Kropp
Act now to minimize the disruptive effects of U.S. politics in the workplace.
Who said, “Never discuss politics in polite company?” We might need to say the same of the workplace after our recent survey showed that many U.S. employees are discussing politics ahead of the November general election, quite a few find those exchanges stressful, and even more are actually avoiding a colleague because of their political views.
The data clearly shows that politics is already negatively affecting workplace productivity, collaboration and employee morale. I only expect things to get worse as the 2020 U.S. presidential election approaches.
In 2020, employees are critical stakeholders in our organizations. They expect more conscious action and policy from us, particularly in times of social and political change. To minimize the negative impacts of politics on the workplace, HR leaders and managers need to see this disruption as a matter of employee engagement and experience.
Read more: Corporate Advocacy of Social Issues Can Drive Employee Engagement
To accommodate increased political expression and activity in the workplace, and avoid a hostile work environment or a distracted and disengaged workforce, I suggest that HR leaders focus on three areas:
Although you need to verify federal, state and local laws that may have implications on regulating employee speech or activity, we recommend that HR leaders use their organization’s culture as a guide to determine what types of regulations to put in place around political expression in the workplace.
A well-written policy will clearly articulate acceptable and prohibited activities and any disciplinary action if policy is broken. Consider which forms of political expression are most likely to have the greatest impact on the workplace, rather than attempting to shut down all forms of political expression. Make sure managers enforce policies consistently.
Make sure employees aren’t mistreated for their political opinions and beliefs. Poor treatment includes name-calling, being treated unfairly or ostracized.
Emphasize the organization’s commitment to ensuring a safe and inclusive work environment for all employees via their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Create a space for safe, relevant communication about the election and reinforce existing policies, processes and programs on workplace abuse, discrimination, harassment and bullying.
Read more: Build a Sense of Belonging in the Workplace
Managers are a crucial part of how organizations can mitigate risks associated with political expression in the workplace. Help managers to support employees by taking these steps:
We will be surveying employees regularly in the months leading up to the U.S. presidential election to continue to understand how politics and the election are affecting U.S. workplaces.
Among the findings from our February 2020 poll of 500 employees across the U.S.:
Brian Kropp is Distinguished Vice President, HR Research at Gartner and oversees the research, tools, services and support that Gartner provides to CHROs and their leadership teams.
Join your peer CHROs and senior HR executives from leading organizations to discuss specific HR challenges and learn top HR trends and priorities.
Recommended resources for Gartner clients*:
Managing Employee Engagement and Productivity Through the United States 2020 Presidential Election
2020 U.S. Election Employee Sentiment Survey — February 2020.
*Note that some documents may not be available to all Gartner clients.