Nav: Home

Political talk plagues workers months after US election

May 03, 2017

American workers are more likely to say they are feeling stressed and cynical because of political discussions at work now than before the 2016 presidential election, according to survey results released today by the American Psychological Association.

The survey found that 26 percent of full-time and part-time employed adults said they felt tense or stressed out as a result of political discussions at work since the election, an increase from 17 percent in September 2016 when they were asked about political discussions at work during the election season. More than one in five (21 percent) said they have felt more cynical and negative during the workday because of political talk at work, compared with 15 percent before the election, according to the survey from APA's Center for Organizational Excellence.

The post-election data were collected online within the U.S. on APA's behalf by Harris Poll from Feb. 16 - March 8, 2017, among 1,311 adults who are employed full time or part time.[1] The pre-election survey was conducted online within the U.S. on APA's behalf by Harris Poll from Aug. 10-12, 2016, among a nationally representative sample of 927 adults who are employed full or part time. [2]

Half of the post-election survey respondents (54 percent) said they have discussed politics at work since the election, and for 40 percent of American workers, it has caused at least one negative outcome, such as reduced productivity, poorer work quality, difficulty getting work done, a more negative view of coworkers, feeling tense or stressed out, or increased workplace hostility. This is a significant increase from the pre-election survey data, when one in four (27 percent) reported at least one negative outcome.

"Employers might prefer to keep political talk out of the workplace, but the reality is these often-heated discussions have intensified since the election, posing a threat to employee well-being and business performance," said David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, director of APA's Center for Organizational Excellence. "Whether it's about politics or any other difficult conversation on the job, managers and supervisors need to create a work climate where people with diverse opinions and backgrounds can work together toward common goals without their differences creating a toxic environment."

Other key findings from the post-election survey related to political discussions at work:
  • Nearly one-third (31 percent) said they had witnessed coworkers arguing about politics, and 15 percent said they have gotten into an argument themselves. More than one in five (24 percent) said they avoided some coworkers because of their political views.

  • About one in six experienced strained relationships as a result of political discussions at work since the election: 16 percent said they have a more negative view of coworkers; 16 percent felt more isolated from coworkers; 17 percent said team cohesiveness suffered; and 18 percent reported an increase in workplace hostility.

  • Some said that political talk in the workplace has hurt their job performance: 15 percent said they have had difficulty getting work done; 13 percent said their work quality has suffered; and 14 percent said they have been less productive.

  • Since the election, significantly more female workers reported feeling more cynical and negative during the workday: 9 percent before the election, vs. 20 percent since. (For male workers, 20 percent reported feeling cynical and negative before the election, vs. 23 percent since).

Another notable finding from the survey is the difference in the way political discussions at work since the election are affecting employees based on their political views. In the survey before the election, there were few differences across political party or philosophy on how talk of politics was affecting workers.

Since the election, self-described liberals are more likely than moderates or conservatives to report feeling tense or stressed as a result of political discussions at work since the presidential election (38 percent, vs. 22 percent for moderates and 21 percent for conservatives) and perceive an increase in workplace hostility (26 percent, vs. 16 percent for moderates and 13 percent for conservatives). People who identified as liberal were also more likely to report that political discussions have made them feel more connected to coworkers (39 percent, vs. 28 percent for moderates, 25 percent for conservatives).

"The political tensions are about more than who won or lost an election," Ballard said. "People across the political spectrum have strong feelings about very personal issues that directly affect their lives, including equality, civil liberties, the role of government, social justice and economic security. Being bombarded with news updates, social media chatter and arguments with friends and coworkers can reinforce stereotypes about Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, perpetuating an 'us versus them' mentality and driving a wedge between people."

"Employers and employees have a shared responsibility to resist the trap of vilifying those with different opinions and actively encourage civility, respect, collaboration and trust," continued Ballard. "A psychologically healthy work environment can help diminish the negative consequences of unavoidable political discussions and serve as a source of stability and support, even during divisive times."
-end-
About the Center for Organizational Excellence

APA's Center for Organizational Excellence works to enhance the functioning of individuals, groups, organizations and communities through the application of psychology to a broad range of workplace issues. The center houses the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, a public education initiative designed to engage the employer community, raise public awareness about the value psychology brings to the workplace and promote programs and policies that enhance employee well-being and organizational performance.

Notes:

[1]APA's 2017 Work and Well-Being Survey was conducted online among 1,512 U.S. adults who are employed full time, part time, or self-employed, of whom 1,311 were employed full time or part time.

[2]The pre-election data is from an online survey among 2,025 U.S. adults, of whom 927 were employed full time or part time.

The full report is available online at http://www.apaexcellence.org/assets/general/2017-politics-workplace-survey-results.pdf

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 115,700 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

http://www.apa.org

If you do not want to receive APA news releases, please let us know at public.affairs@apa.org or 202-336-5700.

American Psychological Association

Related Politics Articles:

Women quotas in politics have unintended consequences
Women continue to be scarce in the halls of power.
Fleeing Nazis shaped Austrian politics for generations after World War II
A new study in The Economic Journal, published by Oxford University Press, suggests that migrating extremists can shape political developments in their destination regions for generations.
The use of jargon kills people's interest in science, politics
When scientists and others use their specialized jargon terms while communicating with the general public, the effects are much worse than just making what they're saying hard to understand.
Stressed out: Americans making themselves sick over politics
Nearly 40% of Americans surveyed for a new study said politics is stressing them out, and 4% -- the equivalent of 10 million US adults -- reported suicidal thoughts related to politics.
Study: Children are interested in politics but need better education from parents and schools
The 2020 election is approaching -- how should we talk with children about this election and about politics more broadly?
Forget 'Obamageddon', 'prepping' is now part of mainstream US politics and culture
Criminologist Dr. Michael Mills challenges the traditional view that US 'preppers' are motivated by extreme right-wing or apocalyptic views.
Study examines how picture books introduce kids to politics
Meagan Patterson of the University of Kansas has authored a study in which she analyzed political messages in some of the most popular picture books of the last several years to see how political topics are introduced to children.
US abortion politics: How did we get here and where are we headed?
After Roe v. Wade, the pro-life movement accelerated rapidly, describes Munson in a new paper, 'Protest and Religion: The US Pro-Life Movement,' published last week in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.
More democracy -- A second chance for climate politics
Hope was high when the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted 2015.
FDA independence in an age of partisan politics
Unlike other federal agencies, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- the oldest federal consumer protection agency -- has been increasingly subjected to creeping politicization and a progressive loss of independence under the glare of partisan politics.
More Politics News and Politics Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.