Political talk at work is a potential minefield

While discussions at work about the presidential election may seem inevitable, human resources experts warn supervisors that discussing political preferences can kill the bottom line.

A survey last year by Harris Interactive showed that about one-fourth of all employees say their top managers make it clear to their subordinates which political candidates they prefer. At the same time, 20 percent of employees surveyed are not comfortable telling their bosses the same information.

"They don't realize the damage they're doing to themselves," said consultant Frank Kenna, president of North Haven, CN-based Marlin Co., which commissioned the survey, in Human Resources Executive magazine. Here's what the worker is thinking, he says: "My boss supports Joe Blow, I hate the guy, I hate my boss."

Supervisors not only risk alienating employees who don't share their beliefs, but also take the chance that fear may leak into other areas of business, hurting productivity.

"When you start imposing your personal, individual beliefs on other people, you are starting to limit people's ability to express themselves. You're limiting critical thinking," said consultant Doug Noll, co-author of Sex, Politics & Religion at the Office.

David Romp, recruiting manager of Clark, Schaefer, Hackett & Co., CPAs, which has five offices in Ohio, said on the firm's Web site that it is critically important for employees never to discuss politics with clients, or even within a client's earshot.

"Customers have been known to walk out of a business rather than put money in the pocket of someone they feel doesn't agree with their political beliefs," he wrote. He also added that CPA firms should prohibit the use of company resources to promote employees' political beliefs.

Dixie McCurley, a CPA at a firm in Atlanta, told Tara Weiss of Fortune magazine that she learned to keep her mouth shut after a colleague was slammed by other co-workers for saying she volunteered for Hillary Clinton. "Most people at my office are southern and Republican. They shut her down. That's why I don't say anything about politics; I'm a Democrat and I don't want to be vilified like that."

Workplace experts say the key to understanding is not necessarily by imposing new policies, but by holding open discussions so supervisors and employees can understand all the implications of discussing politics in the workplace.

You may like these other stories...

While reputational risk is the No. 1 nonfinancial concern among corporate directors, cybersecurity/IT risk is gaining steam. In fact, both private companies and organizations with more than $1 billion in revenue felt they...
We've all been there. Trying to make our work-lives more efficient, transfer knowledge to newer team members, and leverage our practices. Sometimes it works, and sometimes, well, the result is embarrassing at best.Here...
From May 20-23, the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) held its annual conference. Frequent contributor Sally Glick picked up some ideas that she will be sharing with us in the coming days, as she has done in...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Jul 31
In this session Excel expert David Ringstrom helps beginners get up to speed in Microsoft Excel. However, even experienced Excel users will learn some new tricks, particularly when David discusses under-utilized aspects of Excel.
Aug 5
This webcast will focus on accounting and disclosure policies for various types of consolidations and business combinations.
Aug 20
In this session we'll review best practices for how to generate interest in your firm’s services.
Aug 21
Meet budgets and client expectations using project management skills geared toward the unique challenges faced by CPAs. Kristen Rampe will share how knowing the keys to structuring and executing a successful project can make the difference between success and repeated failures.