One in six people fall out with colleagues over politics

Following the recent confirmation of a date for the UK General Election, a new poll from HiBob claims there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who want to banish political chats from the office. The report also suggests there is a major generational split, with younger workers significantly most in favour of holding political discussions at work while also being the group far and away most likely to fall out with others.

According to the survey, one in six (17 percent) UK based workers have fallen out with a colleague or manager over opposing political views. In addition, almost a third (31 percent) say they feel uncomfortable voicing an opinion at work.  This comes alongside a 19 percent annual jump in the number of people who feel that political discussions should be kept out of the office because they can negatively impact company culture.

Almost two thirds (59 percent) of Gen Z (18-to-24-year-olds) employees feel ‘respectful discourse’ should be encouraged to ‘nurture a legitimately inclusive and diverse company culture, although this is also the group most likely to fall out with colleagues. Two-thirds (65 percent) of those aged 25 and over think that socio-political discussions should be kept out of the office.

Despite advocating for socio-political discussions in the workplace, the research claims that a quarter (24 percent) of Gen Z workers have fallen out with a colleague or manager over opposing political views; this is higher than all other age groups. They’re also the least comfortable openly sharing who they are voting for in the next election (43 percent).

One in five (20 percent) say they feel worried about having socio-political discussions at work, but they also say these conversations make them feel supported (22 percent), heard (19 percent) and empowered (14 percent) at work, directly contrasting with over 45s, 40 percent of whom ‘don’t feel anything’ in relation to socio-political conversations at work.

Nearly three quarters of people agree (72 percent) socio-political topics, when discussed at work, need to be talked about in a safe space, where voicing opposing opinions is respectful.


Discussions on and off the table

This year war and conflict (40 percent), immigration and refugee policies (32 percent) and climate change (32 percent) have all been discussed more in the office compared with 2023. Brits feel most comfortable in the office discussing human rights (72 percent feel comfortable), healthcare access (78 percent) and climate change (74 percent), while the most uncomfortable topics include immigration and refugee policies (just 29 percent feel comfortable), racial and ethnic discrimination (28 percent) and war and conflicts (27 percent). Gen Z is most uncomfortable discussing these topics.

Almost one in five (19 percent) UK workers believe employers should take a public position on political and social issues and this increases to a third (33 percent) of Gen Z employees.


Impact on talent pool

Sociopolitical conversations and opinions have a big impact on individuals’ decisions to work at a company, in particular for Gen Z. More than half (53 percent) of this age group say that an employer’s political stance that opposes theirs would deter them from accepting an offer of employment (17 percent higher than over 45s) and 30 percent say an employer’s political stance that opposes theirs would prompt them to leave (8 percent higher than over 45s).

To balance generational differences, and prepare for social and political issues that arise, all Brits think companies require some form of preparation, including clear workplace policies (31 percent), comprehensive DE&I training (16 percent) and open dialogue platforms (14 percent).