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...

State corporate income taxes edge higher, some states stand outEmily Chasan, senior editor for the Wall Street Journal’s CFO Journal, reported yesterday that state corporate income tax revenue rose 5.5 percent in the...
By now, it’s pretty clear that it’s not about the money for former NFL players Hunter Hillenmeyer and Jeff Saturday.After tax authorities in Cleveland, Ohio, applied what the athletes said was unfair taxation...
A couple months ago, we reported that two retired NFL players had each sued the city of Cleveland, Ohio, claiming the city unfairly and improperly taxed their incomes. After former Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Apr 24
In this session Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA introduces you to a powerful but underutilized macro feature in Excel.
Apr 25
This material focuses on the principles of accounting for non-profit organizations' revenues. It will include discussions of revenue recognition for cash and non-cash contributions as well as other revenues commonly received by non-profit organizations.
Apr 30
During the second session of a four-part series on Individual Leadership, the focus will be on time management- a critical success factor for effective leadership. Each person has 24 hours of time to spend each day; the key is making wise investments and knowing what investments yield the greatest return.
May 1
This material focuses on the principles of accounting for non-profit organizations’ expenses. It will include discussions of functional expense categories, accounting for functional expenses and allocations of joint costs.