Emotions Run High at Work as Election Day Approaches

Percentage of companies experiencing political tension has doubled from May to October

Dana Wilkie By Dana Wilkie November 2, 2016
Emotions Run High at Work as Election Day Approaches

​Thanks to this year's contentious presidential election, there's a marked increase in workplace tension, hostility and arguments among co-workers, according to new research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

"As we approach Election Day, tension from the presidential election has spilled into the workplace," said Evren Esen, SHRM's director of workforce analytics. "More than one-half of organizations indicated that there is greater political volatility in the workplace in this presidential election, compared to others. This was double the percentage that said there was greater volatility in May of this year."

After a May survey from SHRM found that political volatility was affecting some workplaces, SHRM repeated survey questions in October to determine whether the 2016 presidential campaign continued to affect the workplace. In each poll, SHRM surveyed randomly selected HR professionals across the country.

The resulting report, Political Volatility in the Workplace, was released Oct. 25.

Respondents were asked: "For the 2016 presidential election, compared with previous election years, would you say there is greater, about the same or less political volatility in the workplace?"

In May, about 26 percent of HR professionals reported greater political volatility during the 2016 presidential election than in previous election years. In October, that percentage doubled, with more than half of respondents (52 percent) saying the same thing.

[SHRM members-only Express Request: Managing Political Discussions]

Respondents were also asked: "How would you describe the increase in political volatility in your workplace?"

Nearly 3 in 4 (70 percent) said employees are more concerned about the candidates than in previous election years, believing the candidates to be unfit to run the country or demonstrating overall dissatisfaction with the choices available.

Sixty percent of HR professionals said their employees are more vocal about their political opinions than in elections past—meaning workers are more frequently engaging in political discussions or even arguments.

More than half (55 percent) said their employees believe that the presidential candidates are more polarizing than in previous years. Only 5 percent said that employees have violated organizational policies regarding political activities.

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