view of the torsos and hands of two employees sparring over workplace politics. They are both wearing checked shirts and both have their hands up in disagreement.
Image: © xreflex/

One-third of employees have left a job due to political differences

24 Oct 2018

The employee of today wants their employer to take a stand on political issues. Some will even quit their job over it.

One-third of employees have left their jobs due to political differences with senior leadership, a new survey published by Randstad US has discovered.

The survey quizzed a representative sample of employees about how politics factors into their working life. Spanning everything from political discussions in the workplace to how an employer’s approach to politics can impact employee engagement, the survey found that political alignment is inextricably linked to whether employees will successfully integrate with teams and even whether they stay in their jobs.

More than half (55pc) of employees have witnessed heated political discussions or even arguments in the workplace, and 64pc of employees say political discussions have grown more heated in the past five to 10 years. This probably will come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention to current affairs, as the increasing geopolitical turbulence is bound to stir passions and consolidate people’s viewpoints.

Workplace politics can make or break a business

While almost half (49pc) of workers say they enjoy hashing out political differences with colleagues at work, 72pc have reported feeling stressed or anxious during some of these discussions. Furthermore, 44pc say heated political discussions impact their productivity.

Politics evidently matters enough to people that it can either bring employers together or pull them apart. More than half (53pc) of employees agree that political differences with colleagues make them less likely to spend time with them outside of work, and half of employees say their opinions on a colleague have changed after discovering their political views. This poses an obvious threat to camaraderie among teams if employees aren’t on the same page politically.

Yet the largest threat to employers is that employees will quit their jobs if they don’t feel represented politically by their workplace. One-third of employees have left a job due to differences in political affiliation with senior leaders who vocalised their views and 37pc would leave their jobs if their CEO publicly promoted political views different from their own. Employees are so committed to ‘voting with their feet’ that some (39pc) will even take a pay cut if it means they get to work with a company that promotes causes aligning with their views.

Staying silent on topics isn’t going to cut it either. More than half (53pc) of employees want their employers to take a stand on LGBTQ rights and 68pc want employers to take a stand on equal pay issues. Given how frequently climate change has arisen in the news of late, it’s not surprising that 63pc of employees also want their organisation to take a stand on environmental issues.

Immigration and workers

Additionally, 54pc reported that they would like to see their employer take a public stand on immigration policy. Immigration in particular has become a hot-button issue within the tech community, with recent reports speculating that the crackdown on immigration by US president Donald Trump’s administration is netting tech giants such as Amazon and Microsoft millions.

Tech employees in these companies have publicly voiced their dissent and urged their employers to rethink contracts with ICE, US Customs and Border Protection and even local police departments.

An opportunity or a threat?

Evidently, gone are the days in which salaries and perks were enough to sate the workers of the world. Employees, now more than ever, crave things that cannot be bought, such as a sense of purpose or a belief that their employer will champion causes close to their hearts.

This could be either an opportunity or a threat, depending on an employer’s position. Smaller companies that may have otherwise struggled to compete with tech behemoths in the war for talent may be able to inch a lead in the race if they champion causes the workers care about. In turn, large companies may suddenly find themselves battling high turnover rates if their employees feel like the organisation is either politically non-committal or expressing a viewpoint they’re uncomfortable with.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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