New research shows that 1 in 5 U.S. workers have experienced poor treatment in the workplace by coworkers or peers due to their political views. The study from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows 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 that 24% of the 504 U.S. workers surveyed in late August 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% in 2019. Further, 20% of HR professionals say there has been greater political volatility at work over the same period.
“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,” says 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.”
Two-thirds of U.S. workers (66%) say the employees in their organizations are inclusive of differing political perspectives among other employees, but moderate (73%) and liberal workers (70%) are more likely than conservative workers (60%) to say so. In addition, although most workers believe their organizations are inclusive, supervisors are 10 percentage points more likely to be hesitant to hire a job applicant who disclosed they had extremely conservative beliefs (30%) than an applicant who disclosed they had extremely liberal beliefs (20%). Exacerbating the issue, only 8% of organizations in a separate survey of 1,525 HR professionals have communicated guidelines to employees around political discussions at work leading up to the 2022 midterm elections.