Political Talk Negatively Affects Workplace Mental Health

Stressed worker sitting at deskWorkers in the United States report feeling stressed and cynical due to political discussions at work, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA). A similar APA survey conducted prior to the 2016 presidential election found election-related stress was common. The new survey suggests stress rates related to politics at work are higher now than they were before the election.

Tension and Stress Due to Political Talk at Work

The survey, conducted by Harris Poll earlier this year, polled 1,311 adults employed full-time or part-time. Fifty-four percent of participants reported discussing politics at work, and 40% reported negative outcomes related to these discussions. These negative outcomes included poor quality work, difficulties with productivity, negative views of coworkers, workplace hostility, tension, and stress.

Arguments about politics were common, with 15% reporting participating in these arguments and 31% witnessing political arguments between coworkers. Sixteen percent said political arguments made them view coworkers more negatively, and 18% said hostility in the workplace had increased.

The election significantly increased negativity and cynicism, particularly among female workers. Prior to the election, 20% of men reported cynical and negative feelings, which increased to 23% of men reporting these feelings after the election. Just 9% of female workers felt cynicism or negativity before the election, but 20% said they feel cynical or negative following the election.

Prior to the election, rates of workplace stress and tension were similar among liberals and conservatives. After the election, 38% of liberals reported feeling tense or stress due to workplace political conversations. Just 22% of moderates and 21% of conservatives reported tension and stress following the election. Liberals, however, were also more likely to say political discussions helped them feel connected to coworkers. Thirty-nine percent of liberals reported increased connections, compared to 28% of moderates and 25% of conservatives.

Mitigating Effects of Political Stress

David W. Ballard, director of the APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence, offers several suggestions for employers trying to mitigate the effects of political stress in the workplace. These suggestions include determining a clear policy that describes limitations of political activities in the workplace, promoting a culture based on mutual trust and respect between workers, and implementing workplace wellness activities that help employees manage their physical and mental health.

References:

  1. 1 in 4 employees negatively affected by political talk at work this election season, finds new survey. (2016, September 14). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2016/09/employees-political-talk.aspx
  2. Ballard, D. W. (2017, March 2). What to do when your coworkers won’t stop talking about politics. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/03/navigating-political-talk-at-work
  3. Political talk plagues U.S. workers months after election. (2017, May 3). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/05/political-talk.aspx

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  • Bill P

    Bill P

    May 12th, 2017 at 10:41 AM

    Great article, thanks for the read. I am a firm believer that discussions focusing on parties done during work time should focus on birthdays.

  • amanda

    amanda

    May 12th, 2017 at 3:30 PM

    Oh no I never discuss politics or religion at work or family gatherings.
    For me that is always a big no no
    Much easier to keep the peace when you steer the conversations to lighter fare

  • Michael

    Michael

    May 13th, 2017 at 9:04 AM

    Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. I might not agree with it but I I agree with your right to say it, no matter what it is.

    Now that being said if you know that there are people that you work with who will get upset then, it is even appropriate to have these conversations at work? I think that there are places where you just have to keep your mouth shut.

    You don’t have to agree with what they say, and if it is offensive either tell them so or simply avoid it. Not everything has to be about having a confrontation to determine who is right and who is wrong.

  • jared

    jared

    May 15th, 2017 at 11:24 AM

    this has been a particularly tough cycle mainly because the country feels so divided right now

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