Study Shows Employees Want Employers To Talk Politics At The Office

Some subjects are just NSFW (Not Suitable For Work).

Outside the obscene, however, everybody knows that you’re not supposed to talk about three important subjects in the workplace: salary, religion, or politics.

Except, it turns out, more and more employees are hoping to knock off the latter from the list. A recent study shows, employees want employers to talk politics in the office.

And, not only that, employees tend to trust their employers as a source of information.

For example, in 2008, over 20 percent of employees in the private workforce wanted to hear from their employer about politics, up from 5 percent in 2000, reports Gregory S. Casey for the HBR Blog.

And, according to an even more recent poll, the 2010 National Poll commissioned by BIPAC and performed by Moore Information, Inc., employed voters believe (43 percent in 2008, 52 percent in 2010) their employer “should be active in promoting public policies favorable to their industries.”

From the same 2010 poll, almost half of all employed voters said they wished their employer “would let him/her know how government and political issues impact his/her job, company and industry,” quotes the HBR Blog.

It seems that employees are looking for information about how to improve their home and professional life. And, why query the complicated news when you can simply question your boss?

So, with the U.S. Presidential elections a mere day away, law firms have one last chance at speaking their political mind.

Because, in 2010, 60 percent of employees who got political information from their employer, “found it helpful when deciding to vote.”

Not just helpful, but also believable.

In the 2011-2012 Market Research Report for BIPAC, performed by Moore Information, Inc., 35 percent of employees said they consider their employer as the “most credible source of information about political issues and elections affecting their job,” cites the HBR Blog.

Of course, it’s still a thin line to walk. Once your political beliefs are known, you can’t get the cat (donkey or elephant, rather) back in the bag.

“The human brain loves putting things into boxes,” Tasha Eurich, a workplace psychologist and principal of the Eurich Group, said to the NY Times, “so as soon as you learn the group someone is in, you start looking at them through that lens.”

As a managing attorney or firm partner, you might consider opening up a forum for discussion, but not taking a specific party line. Or, distribute useful and objective information to employees about the implications of elections on your practice industries.

But, make sure you know your firm policies before talking politics.

Discussion about Obama’s race in the inaugural proceedings last election led to at least one discrimination suit, according to Forbes.

“Although the First Amendment broadly protects our right to freedom of speech, especially when we’re expressing views about politics, the fact is, according to Hurd, private employers can bar political discussions in the workplace,” writes Susan Adams for Forbes.

Finally, and more importantly, “Employers should never tell employees how to vote,” Mr. Casey, President & CEO of the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC), reminds law firms and employers.

“However, that doesn’t mean that employers (or organized labor) can’t have a point of view.”

So, on the eve of electoral history, what’s yours? Studies show your employees want to know.

-WB

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