Small Businesses: Tolerance of Political Chatter in the Workplace Differs by Generation

By Beyond

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The 2016 Presidential Election has been anything but ordinary. With just a few weeks left until we name the next POTUS, political discussion could potentially dominate the water cooler as a hot conversation topic. Depending on what generation your employees fall into, they probably have varying opinions about the appropriateness of politics in the workplace. Since the last presidential election in 2012, the demographics of the working population have shifted slightly. In fact, Millennials have surpassed Generation X as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. With Millennials now dominating the workforce, managers need to think about how that might affect employees of all generations regarding political discussion at work.

Beyond, the Career Network, conducted a survey to find out how job seekers felt about sharing political views in the workplace. Here are three considerations for managers:

The populous grows more comfortable ‘talking shop’ with each passing generation. The study, which engaged more than 5,000 job seekers, found that only 40 percent of Millennial respondents feel uncomfortable talking about politics at work compared to 51 percent of Baby Boomer respondents. Many of the other survey responses mirrored these findings. In other words, the younger the respondents were, the more honest they felt they could be about their opinions at work. Millennials were also more likely to find it acceptable to display political paraphernalia at work, while 60 percent of boomers said these items have no place in the office. Meanwhile, Generation Z, the generation after Millennials will soon be entering the workforce in mass. If trends continue, the workplace could become considerably more accepting of political banter come Presidential Election 2020

Politics are still taboo to most, regardless of generation. Even though Millennials feel like they can be more open about their beliefs in the workplace than their parents’ or grandparents’ generation, the majority of both age cohorts still believe you shouldn’t be engaging in these discussions in the first place. Most workers understand that voicing their passionate opinions can not only put them at odds with their colleagues, it might even land them in hot water with their boss. Interestingly enough, a strict policy to prevent political conversations was found to be rare. In fact, only 10 % of respondents said their company has a policy in place, broadening the grey area of what is appropriate in the workplace. Small businesses have an obligation to make policies clear. In doing so, everyone has a better chance of feeling comfortable and respected.

Your employees will likely spout views more freely via social media. Regardless of how people feel about discussing political preferences at work, one thing many can agree on is that social media is still a fair game. Nearly 70 percent of respondents aged 21-51 believe it’s appropriate to post passionate political views on social media and other public forums, even if their colleagues can read it. Even Baby Boomers polled just slightly lower, with just over 60 percent finding this practice acceptable. Managers can rest assured; those impassioned about the outcome of the presidential election will probably turn to Facebook or Twitter before causing uproar in the office. 

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