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Political Discussions in Workplace Cause Coworker Tension According to 78 Percent of Respondents to New Survey


Despite Risks, 80 Percent of Respondents Don’t Want Political Conversations Muzzled by Employers

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- An overwhelming 78.1 percent of workers who participated in a new survey conducted by Fierce, Inc., leadership development and training experts, claim that political discussions in the office are detrimental to professional relationships, causing tension among coworkers. Of those respondents, 26.6 percent claim political conversations temporarily harm or even permanently damage work relationships. The survey consists of responses from executives and employees in multiple fields, including finance, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, education, and defense.

Despite the risk of tension in the workplace, 80.4 percent of respondents do not want employers to forbid political discussions at the office. The Fierce survey reveals that the risks of political discussions at work include:

  • 39.8 percent of employees have witnessed a political discussion turn into a personal attack at least once.
  • 29 percent of workers feel management favors employees who share the same political views.
  • 54 percent said that political discussions are not healthy and do not improve communication.
  • 13.7 percent say that some coworkers feel excluded from political discussions.

“Although political discussions at work may cause discomfort and tension, management should never outlaw specific topics of conversation,” said Halley Bock, CEO and president of Fierce, Inc. “Employees will inevitably discuss politics, whether it is allowed or not, so forward-thinking organizations should set guidelines for how to approach the subject of politics and what is acceptable behavior.”

Rather than discouraging political conversations or trying to limit the amount of time spent discussing politics, management should take the opportunity to set clear expectations on how to interact regarding political conversations. Here are a few suggestions on how to establish ground rules:

  • Clarify that political conversations should focus on an issue, rather than an individual, to prevent personal attacks.
  • Encourage employees to come to political discussions with open minds, ready to learn, and prepared to respect competing viewpoints.
  • If there is someone specific who is causing tension, call out the behavior in a one-to-one setting, asking to hear the employee’s issues. Then, explore how the situation could be handled differently in a way that reflects the company’s core values.

When survey respondents were asked to rank topics of conversations from least to most appropriate for the workplace, political views rated in the middle of six choices, revealing that it is a rather neutral subject. Sex and relationships ranked as least appropriate, and office gossip as the most appropriate.

About Fierce

Fierce, Inc. is an award-winning leadership development and training company that drives results for business and education by improving workplace communication. Fierce creates authentic, energizing, and rewarding connections with colleagues and customers through skillful conversations that lead to successful outcomes and measurable ROI. Tailored to any organization, Fierce principles and methods translate across the globe, ensure individual and collective success, and develop skills that are practical, easy-to-learn and can be applied immediately. Fierce’s programs have been successfully implemented at blue-chip companies, non-profits, and educational organizations worldwide, including Ernst & Young, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, CARE, and Crate & Barrel. Fierce has received numerous industry and business accolades. The company has twice been honored as an Inc. 500|5000 company, in 2011 was named to’s “Companies to Watch” list, and in 2011 and 2012 selected to Seattle Business magazine's “100 Best Companies to Work For” in Washington lists.

Fierce, Inc.
Emily Esposito, 206-335-3827

Source: Fierce, Inc.