Love it or hate it, or kinda-sorta-don’t really care about it, or wish you didn’t care so much about it, or fear that you don’t care enough about it, or wake up every day feeling completely different about it—or all or some of the above with minor and/or major modifications—everyone has an opinion about the current political climate here in the United States. And whether we find ourselves trapped in an echo chamber, participating in endless debates, or feeling obliged to keep our mouths shut for fear of angering or alienating others, politics influences our moods and behaviors at home, in public, and in the workplace.
Whew. Even trying to speak to an audience of various political persuasions can become an exhausting exercise. But unlike some other topics considered taboo, divisive, or impolite to discuss openly, politics frequently has an immediate effect on many people’s jobs. What happens in Washington, DC shapes our country’s laws and business practices, including the ways businesses can sell our products and services, as well as how organizations treat their employees and hire new ones. Like it or not, all this political talk matters, and unless everyone spontaneously decides to compromise their viewpoints and arrive at a universal greater good, it probably won’t end anytime soon.
With that in mind, it’s important to monitor the repercussions and unintended consequences political talk can have. The more we understand how politics shapes the workplace, the better we can address its negative psychological effects. In other words, if we can’t fix the causes of national uncertainty, we can at least reduce the levels of associated stress.
“Navigating Political Talk at Work,” via HBR
So, how does one go about reducing stress? Over at the Harvard Business Review, David W. Ballard has established a starting point. Ballard, who heads the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence and Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, was one of the architects of the APA’s latest workforce survey. Conducted last year, the survey found that 1 in 4 American workers was negatively affected by political conversations on the job.
Another recent APA survey corroborated these results, showing that “more than half of Americans cited the current political climate as a significant source of stress, and two-thirds said they were stressed about the future of the country, including both Democrats and Republicans.”
Thankfully, the article aims to do more than add to readers’ general sense of crisis. Ballard goes on to explore a few concrete ways employers and employees can mitigate politically driven stress: