How HR leaders can navigate politics, work in a divisive election year

As the 2024 presidential election draws closer, a new survey indicates that leaders and HR professionals must walk a thin line regarding politics and work by establishing safe, appropriate forums for discourse amid heightened political tensions.

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Despite the divisive political climate, the survey of 1,000 full-time American workers by HRIS provider HiBob, titled Sociopolitics in the U.S. Workplace, found that the current political discourse poses a reduced risk to retention compared to previous years. Approximately 60% of respondents said they would not leave a company solely due to its opposing political stance, marking a significant rise from 46% in 2023, which researchers said could be influenced by layoffs and a more competitive job market.

However, they caution HR to continue to be proactive. Particularly, they write, when disruptive political issues seep into the workplace, they can also impact areas like talent acquisition, culture and engagement. For example, 44% of workers said they would be dissuaded from accepting a job offer if the company held opposing political views, an increase from 39% in 2023.

Ronni Zehavi, co-Founder and CEO at HiBob
Ronni Zehavi of HiBob

“The world is going through an unsettling period of geo-political and social disruption,” says HiBob co-founder and CEO. “Our study found that differing political views don’t necessarily drive employees to quit, but many feel uneasy discussing their opinions openly.”

Politics and work: Creating a supportive environment

According to the survey, employees and managers are increasingly trying to avoid discussing politics at work: 77%, compared to 61% last year. This includes digital settings: 81% favor keeping sociopolitical discourse out of company digital communication channels, up from 66% in 2023. Also, 68% prefer to steer clear of such discussions on sites like LinkedIn, marking an increase from 57% last year.

Despite this, 58% agree that respectful sociopolitical discourse should be encouraged in the workplace, compared to 48% in 2023. According to Zehavi, this demonstrates the complexity of establishing the right forums for these conversations for leaders and HR professionals.

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Recognizing that political conversations will inevitably arise in the workplace in the coming months, he says, it’s important for company leaders and HR teams to provide resources to support employees when divisive issues arise. This can include conducting anonymous surveys, establishing employee resource groups or offering extra flexibility like remote work options during elections or other tense times.

“We never know how larger societal issues may affect individuals, so it’s crucial to create a supportive environment within the workplace,” he says.

See also: How HR leaders can promote a more sustainable workplace

Leaders should formalize their policies to ensure workplace conversations don’t alienate any team members. This is particularly important given the changing dynamics in today’s multi-generational workforce.

“Businesses should provide clear policies when it comes to managing political discourse in the workplace, as over time, this can become a major factor in its company culture,” he says.

When it comes to the company’s positions—whether employers take a public, political stance that aligns with company values or choose to remain impartial—he adds, they “need to be confident” in their approach. And leaders should be mindful of what they say and share—as it can influence how comfortable employees are with engaging in challenging conversations at work.

“Regardless of the approach a company takes, workers should be able to share their opinions respectfully in open forums or on social media without fear of recrimination, as they are separate entities from the company,” Zehavi concludes.

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].