The American Management Association recently surveyed 701 senior executives, managers and employees on the topic of talking politics at work. They were asked to describe their level of comfort when talking politics with their supervisor. The results were as follows:
(What’s your opinion? Vote here.)
While one might assume that most employees become quite uncomfortable when talking politics at work, nonetheless with their supervisor, the results of this survey show that many people are comfortable discussing politics. In fact, a recent blog post on the Harvard Business blog “Conversation Starter” suggests that political discussion at work might be healthy. As long as employees are engaging in civil conversations, they are building rapport among one another. Conversation Starter author Stew Friedman says that they are building “community”.
Friedman also says that discussion of such a personal matter builds trust among co-workers. Often times political discussion isn’t rooted around a particular candidate or issue, but around a person’s beliefs. Therefore healthy discussion allows co-workers to learn about each other in an indirect manner.
On the other side of the political discussion-at-work debate, Bruce Weinstein says that talking politics at work can sometimes have a negative effect on productivity. Bruce writes for Business Week’s blog, and discusses the Ethics of Talking Politics at Work. While Friedman argues that opening up to our co-workers builds community, Weinstein warns that there is a potential for embarassment when discussing politics at work. He suggests that if you do get caught up in the discusssion, make sure you’re respectful and fair of other people’s opinions.
It is clear that even two of the more revered writers are split on the topic – so should you allow political discussion in the workplace? Much of the answer to this should be weighted on your workplace culture. It’s important to reiterate Bruce Weinstein’s point, though – if you are going to involve yourself in political discussion at work, be respectful, and be fair.Sources: American Management Association, Conversation Starter, Business Week (“Ethics of Talking Politics at Work”)