Months after the presidential election, political animosity lingers at workplaces across the country. The American Psychological Association says stress on the job has actually increased, and blames it partly on political divisions among co-workers.
In September 2016, an APA survey found just over one-in-four workers reported negativity from political arguments. Now, four-in-ten workers report a lack of productivity, poor work quality or difficulty getting work done, negative views of some coworkers, and increased workplace hostility related in part to the charged political climate.
David Ballard, director of the APA’s Center for Excellence, said what people talk about at work can spark ill feelings.
“These are loaded topics,” Ballard said. “They’re not just talking about the election or whose candidate won or lost, they’re talking about very personal, sensitive issues that touch on age and sex, and religion and race.”
Who is impacted and how to reduce stress
More than twice as many men as women report being less productive because of political discussions, and workers ages 18-34 seem to feel the most impact from the differing viewpoints.
Ballard said the workplace isn’t an appropriate place for these kinds of conversations, although they will likely continue – which means it’s probably a good idea to establish some ground rules.
“So, the key is really to create an environment where people are civil to each other, they’re respectful to each other regardless of their differences,” he said; “and that means sometimes knowing when to walk away from a heated conversation.”
Ballard added the boss should also be willing to step in and keep discussions from becoming too heated.
“For employers, it poses a potential for legal risk if people feel like it’s a hostile work environment or that there’s discrimination occurring,” he explained. “So, it’s a big problem.”
The survey found more than 25 percent of adults employed full- or part-time have felt tension or stress based on political discussions at work since the election. That’s up from 17 percent during the campaign season.