SHRM Study Reveals 20% of Workers Mistreated Due to Political Views

October 5, 2022
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) released new research today that shows 1 in 5 U.S. workers (20 percent) have experienced poor treatment in the workplace by coworkers or peers due to their political views.

Results of SHRM’s 2022 Politics at Work Study, which was completed at the end of the summer, show an uptick in political discussions and political volatility in the workplace in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 presidential election.

SHRM found a quarter of U.S. workers (24 percent) have personally experienced political affiliation bias, including preferential treatment or undue negative treatment on the basis of their political positions or opinions, compared to 12 percent of U.S. workers in 2019.

Twenty percent of HR professionals say there is greater political volatility at work than there was three years ago.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen a real decline in civility when people express their opinions and beliefs, and it’s a barrier to success for employers and their employees,” said SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. “This trend has been fueled by the relative anonymity of social media, and it has spilled into our communities and our workplaces. In today’s climate, people are saying, ‘I can’t work with you if you don’t share my views.’ It’s a problem HR professionals and business leaders cannot ignore. I am hopeful SHRM’s research will help organizations build constructive dialogue in the workplace—for the good of employees, the bottom line and society at large.”
 
Study results are especially troubling when it comes to the role of politics and employee advancement. Over 1 in 10 U.S. workers (13 percent) have experienced limited opportunities for promotions due to their political views.

SHRM found that most organizations have not experienced an uptick in employee complaints related to political discussions at work (88 percent) or had to respond to an employee for political-related conflict in the workplace (84 percent). At the same time, however, the percentage of U.S. workers who say they’ve experienced political affiliation bias or differential treatment because of their political views has increased by over 10 percentage points in the past three years. 

Here are other key findings from the 2022 SHRM Politics at Work Study:

Today, 45 percent of U.S. workers say they have personally experienced political disagreements in the workplace, compared to 42 percent of U.S. workers in 2019.

Those who work fully in-person (50 percent) are more likely to say they’ve experienced political disagreements in the workplace than hybrid workers (36 percent) and fully remote workers (39 percent). 

Over a quarter of U.S. workers (26 percent) engage in political discussions with their coworkers. 

Only eight percent of organizations have communicated guidelines to employees around political discussions at work, particularly leading up to the 2022 midterm elections. 

When it comes to inclusive workplace cultures, two-thirds of U.S. workers (66 percent) say that the employees in their organization are inclusive of differing political perspectives amongst other employees, and nearly the same amount (68 percent) say that their organization is inclusive of differing political perspectives amongst employees. 

Liberal workers (70 percent) and moderate workers (73 percent) are more likely to say the employees in their organization are inclusive of differing political perspectives among other employees than conservative workers (60 percent). 

Supervisors are 10 percentage points more likely to be hesitant to hire a job applicant who disclosed they had extremely conservative beliefs (30 percent) than an applicant who disclosed they had extremely liberal beliefs (20 percent).

Over 4 in 5 (82 percent) U.S. workers plan to vote this year. Of these workers, the top political issues influencing their vote include the economy (48 percent), inflation (38 percent), abortion (37 percent), gun policies (32 percent), health care (28 percent) and immigration policy (18 percent).

Forty-five percent of U.S. workers have experienced political disagreements in the workplace, and nearly the same amount (46 percent) have witnessed or observed political disagreements in the workplace. 

Male workers (30 percent) are more likely to say they’ve personally experienced political affiliation bias than female workers (18 percent). 

Over 1 in 10 U.S. workers (13 percent) have experienced bullying in the workplace due to their political views. 

Nearly 30 percent of U.S. workers (27 percent) have experienced joking about their beliefs in the workplace.

Methodology 

U.S. workers: A sample of 504 working Americans was surveyed using the AmeriSpeak Omnibus, NORC at the University of Chicago’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. For the purposes of this survey, we refer to this group as “U.S. workers.” The survey was administered August 25-29, 2022. All data was weighted to reflect the U.S. adult population.

HR professionals: A sample of 1,525 HR professionals were surveyed through SHRM membership. The survey was administered August 25-September 11, 2022. Only HR professionals who were currently working for an organization (either remotely, in person, or through a hybrid model) were eligible to participate in this survey.

About SHRM

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces. More than 95% of Fortune 500 companies rely on SHRM to be their go-to resource for all things work and their business partner in creating next-generation workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at SHRM.org and on Twitter @SHRM.
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