U.S. Election Is Stressing Out Workers

Workplace political conflicts are on the rise as partisans battle over the water cooler.

The divisive race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for president is causing conflict, fights and arguments at many American workplaces, according to a new survey by the American Psychological Association.

While politics is always a touchy subject at work, this year it's worse, according to David Ballard, director of the APA's Center for Organizational Excellence.

"We did find that about half the people said they're colleagues are more likely to discuss politics this season than in the past," Ballard said. "The majority said their co workers are respectful. Despite that, more than one quarter said they witnesses arguments about politics and about 1 in 10 got in an argument about politics."

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Young men under 35 years old seem most affected by political arguments, according to the survey of 927 adults conducted Aug. 10-12 by the Harris Poll.

This includes having difficulty getting work done, producing lower-quality work and being less productive overall. Similarly, younger people and men were more likely to have said that because of political discussions at work, they feel more isolated from their colleagues, have a more negative view of them and have experienced an increase in workplace hostility. Compared to women, men were more than four times as likely to report having argued about politics with a coworker (18 percent vs. 4 percent).

"A significant number say that they feel more isolated, more hostile and cohesiveness of their team had suffered," Ballard said. "People are reporting that they are stressed out, about 1 in 10. They felt more cynical and negative. Its been harder to get their work done."

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Ballard said the results of the survey aren't that surprising, given what's been going on between the two candidates.

"It only takes one member of a team to create a negative work environment," he said. "And there is a lot of talk this season."

For employers, the problem is that prohibiting political speech at work may not be legal, at least for public employees. Workers are private firms might have stricter limits.

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The best advice is avoid politics, according to Brandon Smith, a workplace therapist, executive coach, and professor of business at the Emory University in Atlanta.

"The burden leans on the company to draw rules and guidelines, Smith said. "If you put it on the individual, it's harder."

Because the election is so contentions and polarizing, any workers who object to political discussions might be seen as voting for the other candidate.

"They will shut you down," Smith said about co-workers who are backing a certain candidate. "It's the leader's job to say it's a contentious environment, we need to focus on our job and I want you to leave political discussions out of the work environment."