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Stat of the Week: Political Discussions at Work

Toby Graham /

Climate change, policing, immigration, guns, abortion, health care—there’s a lot people are conditioned to avoid talking about at work, and a lot we don’t write here on the KPA blog.

Seriously, just looking at that list of words gives me heartburn.

So why am I bringing them up? Because it’s becoming increasingly clear that we workforce safety, HR, and compliance professionals can no longer pretend that politics don’t exist. In these deeply divided times, charged political conversations are happening whether we acknowledge them or not.

According to a recent Society for Human Resource Management poll, “42 percent of employees have had a ‘political disagreement’ at work, and 12 percent have experienced political affiliation bias.”

That’s not all. A majority of respondents in SHRM’s poll believe political discussions at work have increased in recent years. And employers are taking notice—questions to the SHRM HR Knowledge Center about political disagreements have jumped threefold since 2017.

Political Discussions at Work

As much as you and I would probably like to, we can longer plug our ears and go la la la, I can’t hear you when a touchy subject comes up at work. If we’re not careful, what we’re really ignoring could be the risk of discrimination, harassment, and the headaches that follow.

Even if it doesn’t result in legal claims, unmediated political talk can negatively impact company culture, dragging down morale and engagement. SHRM warns that “[t]hese discussions, if not managed transparently and with guidelines for civil discourse, can result in adverse employee experiences for those involved, as well as for bystanders.”

Regardless of personal politics, there are certain things every employer can do to help employees navigate these indigestion-inducing conversations at work. To start, check out some advice from HR experts in “How Should HR Handle Political Discussions at Work?” over at SHRM.org.

For more detailed HR and workplace risk management guidance, be sure to contact KPA.

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