A Workforce Divided: Survey Finds Alarming Rise of Politics at Work

U.S. Companies Face Growing Human, Financial Costs Driven by Political Polarization


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“What Does Inclusion Look Like?” Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., Keynote Speech)

ALEXANDRIA, Va.--()--For decades, conventional business wisdom has held that employees should check their political opinions at the door. A new SHRM survey, however, shows that not only are political conversations occurring at work, they’re on the rise—and causing conflicts. The findings suggest that political topics—like race, sex and gender—are a dimension of diversity that workplace cultures should include and embrace by facilitating civil conversations.

(Infographic: The Alarming Rise of Politics at Work)

The Politics at Work survey, fielded October 7-14, follows SHRM’s 2019 culture report, which found nearly 1 in 5 Americans have quit a job in the past five years due to toxic workplace culture—costing U.S. companies $223 billion in turnover. Taken together SHRM’s research suggests that the rise of political conflicts in the workplace could drive disengagement and intensify toxicity:

  • 42 percent of U.S. employees have personally experienced political disagreements in the workplace.
  • A majority (56 percent) say politics, and the discussion of political issues, has become more common in the past four years.
  • More than one-third (34 percent) say their workplace is not inclusive of differing political perspectives.
  • 12 percent have personally experienced political affiliation bias.

“One year out from the 2020 election, we should expect to see political disagreements increase even further in the coming months” said SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP. “Companies can’t, and shouldn’t try to, quash these conversations because—contrary to popular belief—they’re already happening. But what they can do is create inclusive cultures of civility where difference isn’t a disruption.”

(Video: “What Does Inclusion Look Like?” Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., Keynote Speech)

Taylor added: “Companies need to be proactive, not reactive. We’re talking about hot-button issues that fire people up, so it’s important to put up ‘guardrails’ when facilitating constructive, inclusive environments where employees can disagree without being disagreeable.”

Media: SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., and SHRM Chief Knowledge Officer Alex Alonso are available for interviews. Contact Cooper Nye of SHRM Media Relations at Cooper.Nye@shrm.org to schedule an interview.

Methodology: A sample of 522 working Americans was surveyed using the Amerispeak Omnibus survey, NORC at the University of Chicago’s probability-based panel which was designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. The survey was administered October 7-14, 2019.

About SHRM

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today’s evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at SHRM.org and on Twitter @SHRM.


SHRM Media Relations
Cooper Nye


SHRM Media Relations
Cooper Nye