Stop Talking About the Election at Work: It's Hurting You

Admit it. You're sick to death of the election.  And yet people at work are still talking about it at the water cooler (and in the lunchroom and the bathrooms and walking in and out of the front doors).  Now a new study says it's hurting workers and causing stress.

American workers are more likely to say they are feeling stressed and cynical because of political discussions at work now than before the 2016 presidential election, according to survey results released today by the American Psychological Association, according to newswise.com.

The survey found that 26 percent of full-time and part-time employed adults said they felt tense or stressed out as a result of political discussions at work since the election, an increase from 17 percent in September 2016 when they were asked about political discussions at work during the election season. More than one in five (21 percent) said they have felt more cynical and negative during the workday because of political talk at work, compared with 15 percent before the election, according to the survey from APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence.

But isn't the election over?

I'll admit I'm very unhappy at how it all turned out, but I find myself obsessively reading everything I can about what's going on in Washington (and Mar-a-Lago), just to see what new dumb thing the president has done today.  (Also, because I'm terrified.)

Over 50% said they have discussed politics at work since the election, and for 40 percent of American workers, it has caused at least one negative outcome, such as reduced productivity, poorer work quality, difficulty getting work done, a more negative view of coworkers, feeling tense or stressed out, or increased workplace hostility. This is a significant increase from the pre-election survey data, when one in four (27 percent) reported at least one negative outcome.
  • Nearly one-third (31 percent) said they had witnessed coworkers arguing about politics, and 15 percent said they have gotten into an argument themselves. More than one in five (24 percent) said they avoided some coworkers because of their political views.
  • About one in six experienced strained relationships as a result of political discussions at work since the election: 16 percent said they have a more negative view of coworkers; 16 percent felt more isolated from coworkers; 17 percent said team cohesiveness suffered; and 18 percent reported an increase in workplace hostility.
  • Some said that political talk in the workplace has hurt their job performance: 15 percent said they have had difficulty getting work done; 13 percent said their work quality has suffered; and 14 percent said they have been less productive.
  • Since the election, significantly more female workers reported feeling more cynical and negative during the workday: 9 percent before the election, vs. 20 percent since. (For male workers, 20 percent reported feeling cynical and negative before the election, vs. 23 percent since).
Another notable finding from the survey is the way political discussions at work, before the election, turned up few differences across political party or philosophy on how talk of politics was affecting workers, but
since the election, self-described liberals are more likely than moderates or conservatives to report feeling tense or stressed as a result of political discussions at work (38 percent, vs. 22 percent for moderates and 21 percent for conservatives) and perceive an increase in workplace hostility (26 percent, vs. 16 percent for moderates and 13 percent for conservatives).

People who identified as liberal were also more likely to report that political discussions have made them feel more connected to coworkers (39 percent, vs. 28 percent for moderates, 25 percent for conservatives).

"The political tensions are about more than who won or lost an election," researchers say. "People across the political spectrum have strong feelings about very personal issues that directly affect their lives, including equality, civil liberties, the role of government, social justice and economic security. Being bombarded with news updates, social media chatter and arguments with friends and coworkers can reinforce stereotypes about Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, perpetuating an 'us versus them' mentality and driving a wedge between people."
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