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Build Your Career Office Life

Talking Politics is Stressing Your Employees Out

Talking Politics is Stressing Your Employees Out
Credit: 3dfoto/Shutterstock

The battle for the White House isn't just taking its toll on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – it's also negatively affecting American workers, new research finds.

U.S. employees say political discussions around the office are stressing them out and making them more argumentative and less productive, according to a study from the American Psychological Association.

Overall, 17 percent of those surveyed said the political rhetoric they are subjected to by colleagues has made them feel tense or stressed, with 15 percent saying it has made them more negative at work. In addition, 13 percent said talk this election season has made them less productive and 10 percent said their work quality has suffered because of it.

"The workplace brings people together from different backgrounds who might not ordinarily interact with each other," David Ballard, director of American Psychological Association's Center for Organizational Excellence, said in a statement. "When you add politics to the mix – a deeply personal and emotional topic for many –there is potential for tension, conflict and problems for both employees and the organization."

 The research found that men and younger workers are being negatively impacted the most by political discussions in the office. Compared with women, more than twice as many men said they had more trouble getting work done, that their work quality has suffered and that they had been less productive at work.

Similarly, employees between ages 18 and 35 were more likely than their older peers to say that political talk has negatively affected their work performance, quality of work and productivity.

Younger workers are also more likely to look at their co-workers in a more negative light because of political conversations. The study found that 26 percent said they have a more negative view of co-workers as a result of political discussions at work, while 28 percent said they avoid some co-workers because of their political views.

On the flip side, political talk has brought some co-workers closer together. Nearly one-quarter of all those surveyed said they feel more connected to their colleagues and 23 percent said they have a more positive view of their co-workers as a result of hearing their political viewpoints.

Overall, many workers say talk of the presidential campaign has been more constant this year than they previously remember. Nearly half of those surveyed said employees have been more likely this year to discuss politics at work then during past election seasons. Although 60 percent of employees said people at work are generally respectful toward others with differing political opinions, more than one-quarter said they have seen or overheard co-workers arguing about politics. In addition, 11 percent have gotten into an argument themselves.

Ballard said regardless of political identification, the heated discussions and divisive rhetoric this election season have the potential to take a toll on people's well-being and even affect their job performance.

"While employers may not be able to limit political discussions in the workplace, they can take steps to ensure those conversations take place in a civil, respectful environment," Ballard said. "A psychologically healthy workplace is particularly critical during challenging and polarizing times, and these survey results highlight the fact that despite conventional wisdom, people are often more alike than they are different."

The study was based on surveys of 927 U.S. adults who are employed full or part time.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.