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SHRM Finds Workers Were Anxious Prior to Election Day

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) released new research today that shows over 1 in 5 U.S. workers witnessed increased anxiety and stress among employees in their organization leading up to Election Day.

Campaign season also led to workplace friction. According to surveys by the SHRM Research Institute, just over 1 in 10 workers (12 percent) witnessed peer-to-peer animosity among colleagues and 13 percent witnessed an increased number of employee complaints related to political discussions at work prior to the midterms.

The surveys also show workers in non-swing states were more likely than workers in swing states to describe their mood as calm leading up to the midterms (37 percent versus 26 percent).

"These results affirm that organizations have a lot of work to do when it comes to establishing healthy, supportive workplace cultures," said SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. "When employees are anxious at work or even seeing bullying occur due to political differences, the entire enterprise will suffer. We found 11 percent of U.S. workers witnessed a decrease in productivity leading up to the midterms, along with increases in time off and sick days. HR and business leaders need to take concrete steps to cultivate civility and help people understand that genuine diversity—diversity that enriches all of us—includes diverse thought and perspectives."

Here are other key findings from SHRM's recent surveys:

  • Workers in swing states were more likely to describe their general mood as anxious leading up to the midterm election (37 percent) compared to post-election (27 percent).
  • Workers in non-swing states were more likely to describe their political discussions leading up to the midterms as informative (71 percent) compared to workers in swing states (61 percent).
  • Just over 10 percent of HR professionals reported witnessing increased stress (14 percent) or anxiety (13 percent) among employees in their organization leading up to the midterm elections.
  • Workers were more likely to say they engaged in political discussions regarding the outcome of the midterms at work (57 percent) than to say they engaged in political discussions leading up to the election (48 percent).
  • Leading up to the midterms, 11 percent of workers witnessed a decrease in productivity, 11 percent witnessed increased paid time off being taken and 9 percent witnessed the increased use of sick days.


HR sample: A sample of 980 HR professionals from SHRM's member database was surveyed from October 31 to November 7 and another sample of 744 HR professionals from the same source was surveyed November 9 to 16. For the purpose of this study, "HR professional" refers to those who work in HR and hold an individual contributor, manager or director role and work for organizations.

U.S. workers: A sample of 1,604 workers were surveyed using a third-party online panel. The survey was in field from October 31 to November 7. Another survey was sent out on November 9 and closed on November 16, finishing with a total sample of 1,576 U.S. workers.

Although both samples reflect participants across the U.S., SHRM specifically oversampled in the following swing states: Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Florida, and Colorado.

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 and on Twitter @SHRM.


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