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Room for Debate: Does Political Talk Belong Outside the Workplace?

More than a third of workers discuss politics at work, according to a new CareerBuilder survey – and the exchanges aren’t always so diplomatic.

Clearly, not everyone is heeding Linus van Pelt’s timeless advice to avoid discussing religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin in mixed company…

Thirty-six percent of workers discuss politics at work, according to a new CareerBuilder survey of more than 7,000 full-time workers nationwide. That number will likely increase in the coming months, as 43 percent expect they will be talking about this year’s presidential election with co-workers.

While most conversations around politics were good-natured or even-tempered, 23 percent of workers who have discussed politics at work reported they had a heated discussion or fight with a co-worker, boss or someone else higher up in the organization. (Awkward!) And one in ten workers even said their opinion about a co-worker changed – most often for the negative – after they discovered that person’s political affiliation.

Look Who’s Talking Politics | Breakdowns by Age and Gender
When it comes to gender, men are more likely to talk politics at work than women (44 percent of men versus 28 percent of women) as well as more likely to report an altercation with a co-worker over opposing political views (25 percent compared to 19 percent).

According to the survey results, the older the worker, the more likely he or she is to discuss politics at work. Among workers 55 and older, 43 percent say they discuss politics at work, whereas only 25 percent of 18- to 24-year-old workers say the same. The next age group most likely to discuss politics was workers aged 45 to 54 at 40 percent, followed by workers 35 to 44 (34 percent) and workers 25 to 24 (30 percent).

Office Politics vs. Government Politics: What’s worse?
The survey also found that, for 46 percent of workers, the competitive nature of government politics mirrors that of office politics. Another 19 percent of workers say office politics don’t hold a candle to national politics in its viciousness.

While most workers choose to keep political debates outside of the workplace, those who like a little healthy debate should keep at that – healthy. After all, work is stressful enough without adding politics into the mix.  To avoid letting political talk turn sour, keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their opinion.

“It’s important to always be respectful of your colleagues’ opinions and avoid emotionally-charged exchanges,” says Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder, adding that that advice applies at for any time you’re dealing with subject matter that is sensitive or potentially inflammatory.

(Including, perhaps, the Great Pumpkin.)

Do you talk politics at work? How do you keep it civil?

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
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