Money & Business

Political Stress at Work Worsening, Psychological Association Reports

By / May 3, 2017 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The American Psychological Association reports that political stress has grown in the workplace since the 2016 election, especially in workplaces where there’s a diversity of views among employees.

It’s been six months since the 2016 election, but the political debates that defined that period have yet to die down. In fact, things may be getting worse.

And that’s creating a lot of extra stress, says the American Psychological Association. The group also reported a lot of election-season stress back in October, but with Donald Trump in the Oval Office, things haven’t really changed. The association’s survey finds that about a quarter of full-time and part-time workers (26 percent) say they feel stress or tension due to the political discourse happening at the office—an increase from the 17 percent that said the same last September.

The issue was creating issues for workers, with one in five employees (21 percent) reporting cynicism or feelings of negativity on the job. Even worse, 40 percent of workers say that they’ve had a negative outcome at work as a result of political talk at work—a huge jump from 27 percent in August. (Liberals are more likely to feel stress or tension, though every political persuasion reports at least some.)

“I was surprised at the size of the jump and the percentage of people saying it produced at least one negative impact,” David Ballard, director of the APA’s Center for Organizational Effectiveness, told The Washington Post.

And these political conversations could be causing bigger problems, including along the lines of productivity and collaboration. In a recent Bloomberg article, Society for Human Resource Management HR Partner Edward Yost suggests the debates can get lengthy and might lead staffers to avoid working with people they need to.

“We’re trying to work in more collaborative environments,” Yost told the news outlet. “So often, people, even though they need some piece of information to complete a project, they’d rather pull their own teeth out than talk to people they don’t like.”

But there may be situations where political views might make things a little easier to deal with—in a work environment where political views are mostly the same, Ballard told the Post, “you’re getting support from each other.”

But not everyone’s so lucky—and a more diverse work environment can cause problems. In a news release, Ballard emphasized that an environment that allows for an open dialogue might help matters.

“Employers and employees have a shared responsibility to resist the trap of vilifying those with different opinions and actively encourage civility, respect, collaboration, and trust,” he said. “A psychologically healthy work environment can help diminish the negative consequences of unavoidable political discussions and serve as a source of stability and support, even during divisive times.”

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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