How a Manager's Political Beliefs Impact the Workplace

Do bosses and politics mix? Read on to see what employees like you and your colleagues are saying on this topic, based on a ResumeHelp survey. 

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By Donna Wright 5 minute read

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2024 presidential election: To discuss at work or not

Most people have an unshakable belief in their own political views. That means bosses, employees and coworkers with opposing political beliefs usually won’t find agreement. So is speaking about politics at work ever a good idea? As 2024 is a pivotal election year, including a U.S. presidential race, our ResumeHelp experts thought this was the perfect time to deep dive into the role of politics in the workplace, and discover whether a manager’s political beliefs have an impactful influence on work performance and attitude.

We looked at a recent ResumeHelp survey that included 1,000 U.S. workers to better understand this topic. Survey results show:

  • 59% believe their manager’s political beliefs influence their management style and/or decisions.
  • 25% have either left a job or wanted to leave their job because of their boss’s political beliefs. 

Let’s break down these numbers and examine the boss-employee relationship to explore these results.

Male vs. female: Do perspectives about politics at work differ?

You may or may not be surprised to read that 57% of women reported feeling a negative impact from talking politics at work, compared to 44% of male survey respondents. Perhaps women take “words” more seriously than men who can shrug off the talk and not take something political a boss says to heart. The survey also showed that 32 percent of men agree that discussing politics in the workplace actually had a positive impact. That’s almost double the percentage of how female workers answered that same question.

All the above suggests there are different perspectives about even discussing politics at work, and showing respect for your coworkers’ feelings on the topic should be considered before starting any political discussion that could explode into an uncomfortable debate.

Have political discussions affected your professional relationships with colleagues?

Now that we discussed political conversations with bosses, what about a political discussion with a coworker? According to Benefitspro.com, employers are not doing enough to resolve political tensions in the workplace: “Employees are scared to reveal their political opinions out of fear it will change the way their coworkers and managers view them.” Our recent survey supports this claim, as it shows 45% of employees say discussing politics at work with colleagues affected relationships in the workplace. However, 43% of men claimed that political discussions had no impact on colleagues, while 28% of women avoided having political discussions at work in the first place.

While a political discussion with a colleague may seem harmless, consider whether losing a good working relationship is worth trying to make your political opinion heard.

Have political discussions ever affected your professional relationship with a boss? 

It goes without saying that whether you’re a boss or an employee, we tend to think our individual political beliefs are correct. However, this can lead to trouble should you engage your boss on politics, as our ResumeHelp survey suggests that political discussions with a superior can create an uncomfortable environment.

According to the ResumeHelp survey, 40% of men have had a political discussion with a boss that affected their relationship with that boss. On the other hand, only 10% of females stated the same. In fact, most females in the survey claimed that they don’t have political discussions with their bosses, period. All this indicates that the best approach to discussing politics with a boss or other coworkers is to keep it civilized and “agree to disagree” when it comes to different opinions, so that one side can avoid making a negative impact on the other.

Does your immediate manager handle political discussions at work? 

According to Linkedin, “A politically charged workplace can create a toxic environment, where employees feel that they must constantly navigate complex power dynamics and interpersonal conflicts.” While a whopping 51% of ResumeHelp’s survey respondents believe workplace political discussions hurt the work environment, each manager will handle such a situation differently. Some bosses will diffuse political discussions before they escalate, while others will be guilty of instigating the political talk.

Delving further into this question based on a male and female perspective, male respondents in our survey say that 31% of bosses don’t take a stance on political discussions in the workplace, while 19% say a boss encourages them, 16% say a boss discourages them and 6% prohibits them. Females say that 26% of bosses don’t take a stance on political discussions at work, while 16% discourage them, 7% encourage them and 5% prohibit them.

The Harvard Business Review states that “it’s much easier to develop norms and procedures for navigating political conflict at work before a crisis emerges.” Managers who want to discourage politics in the workplace can easily remind their employees of the company’s stance, which should be clearly defined in the employee handbook.

5 ways to avoid or diffuse political discussions in the workplace

  • 1

    Research whether your company has policies about politics at work

    Many employers have a section in their employee policy handbook discussing this often controversial topic. Read the section carefully and help your colleagues abide by any rules regarding political speech or campaigning in the workplace.

  • 2

    Ignore emails of a political nature

    There may be one employee or two who does not abide by the restrictions placed by the employer about politics in the workplace and sends emails of a political nature to colleagues. The best thing you can do is to simply delete the email from your company-owned computer. Avoid replying to the employee or forwarding the message to others. Even if you share the same beliefs, you wouldn’t want to jeopardize your job by responding to an unacceptable email. To keep the situation from escalating, you could say something like “I need to focus on time-sensitive work emails, so please remove me from any group emails you send unless it’s work-related” to the emailer.

  • 3

    Avoid political messages on clothing, bumper stickers or office walls.

    Your workplace may offer you an occasional casual dress day when you can dress down in your most comfortable pair of jeans. You should avoid wearing a T-shirt or baseball cap boasting your favorite political candidate or political party. Save those flashy shirts to wear at home or on weekends. In addition to refraining from “wearing” your political affiliation, planting political flags on your car or on your desk isn’t recommended.

  • 4

    Avoid workplace political discussions before a situation escalates.

    While you can control the words that come out of your own mouth, you cannot always control conversations that begin among your colleagues. Let’s face it, political discussions can happen at random, and get heated. If an uncomfortable political discussion begins, either pretend you’re not listening, put on a headset or just walk away before the conversation escalates into a “point of no return” heated disagreement.

  • 5

    Managers should set a good example.

    If you’ve been appointed a leadership role, use your power to initiate healthy conversations among your employees. This includes gently reminding your team about the company’s political policy, especially in a year of a presidential election, in addition to suggesting all team members refrain from making jokes about controversial topics. In extreme cases, a manager or human resources may need to intervene to prevent the resignations of dedicated, hard-working employees caught in the crossfire of inappropriate political debates.

    If politics in the workplace is affecting you to the point that it’s affecting your productivity and motivation, or gotten you feeling uncomfortable, then it may be a good time to seek a new job. ResumeHelp offers job seekers modern online tools to update your professional resume, write a powerful, matching cover letter, and accelerate your job search. If you found the perfect job opportunity and want to submit your job application documents fast, our ResumeHelp Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder tools can help you create documents in minutes!

Donna Wright Profile
WRITTEN BY Donna Wright

Donna is a career expert with extensive experience in the fields of Marketing, Publishing, Direct Mail and Communications. She’s witnessed firsthand the importance of a powerful resume and cover letter to a job search, so she takes great pride in helping change the lives of job seekers by sharing expert career advice and tips to help land the perfect job.

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