Tuesday 20 March 2018

Why talking about politics in the workplace can negatively impact staff - and your business

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Chatting about politics over the water cooler is happening now more than ever following a year of electoral surprises - but it can have a negative impact on employees.

Discussions about how the UK voting to leave the EU will impact Ireland or what US President Donald Trump will do next has replaced catching up on office gossip or weekend plans for many.

But a recent survey has found that some 20pc of staff are adversely affected by such - almost inescapable - talk in the workplace.

HR and employment law specialist Peninsula Ireland questioned 1,000 employees and found that recent political discourse has left staff feeling stressed, more isolated from their colleagues, and less productive as a result of political disagreements.

Furthermore, the survey discovered that 65pc of employees avoid talking politics at work and 32pc of employees reported that workplace hostility has increased because of such discussions.

"The workplace brings people together from different backgrounds that might not usually interact with each other," Alan Price, HR Director at Peninsula Ireland said.

"When you add politics to the mix--a deeply personal and sometimes emotional topic for many, there is potential for tension, friction and problems for both employees and the business."

While political discussions at work can't be prevented, Price maintains that it is important to remind employees to be respectful and that political views are a personal matter.

"Ensure that employees are sincere in their interest for another person’s views, and have them truly consider why another person may feel the way they do on a certain topic," he said.

"By taking a civilised approach, employees can respectfully share opinions with each other without getting confrontational. Practicing these discussions may even help them in other work conversations and difficult situations in the future”

Another reason to not discuss politics in the office is because these discussions can open businesses up to potential risk, according to Price.

"f an employee has a heated political discussion with a manager, then is dismissed due to an unrelated issue, the employee has the ability to feel as if their differing political views were the ultimate cause of their dismissal,” he said.

Alan Price
Alan Price

“Every business depends on teams and teamwork so it is important that employers don't allow politics to destroy workplace morale.”

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