Politics is Now a Work Subject

The upcoming UK general election promises to be an interesting event to follow. With no party having a clear majority it is likely that we will be left with a hung parliament following the election on the 7th May.

With so many issues in the balance such as the EU, renewal of Trident and cuts in the name of austerity, it is the most important election in living memory. It is therefore absolutely key that any voting member of the public does their due diligence in terms of researching and discussing politics. Whilst this can be a somewhat tedious task to do on your own, it is now becoming more and more commonplace to discuss politics in the workplace.

As Robert Half now reports, up to 85% of employees are using their job as an opportunity to weigh in on the upcoming election. This is undoubtedly a positive change in terms of societal practice as while historically the discussion of politics and religion would be considered a social faux pas, it is clear that times are changing and workers are using the opportunity to consider different political viewpoints while being given opportunity to air their own.

This previous reluctance towards political discussion may stem from the idea that bosses and managers do not take kindly to discussion and expression of political viewpoints in the workplace, however only 7% of Human Resources managers think discussing politics will affect how colleagues and superiors treat other employees.

There are multiple potential reasons for this change. As politics becomes more transparent and accessible to the general public (with politicians keen to appeal to the working age vote) it is perhaps becoming expected that one will form an opinion one way or another. There is no denying that the 2015 election is going to be incredibly important and politicians are making sure that people know this.

Of course, the national television debates have consistently been in the news and have drawn in massive number of viewers, though it is only the second time that there have been televised debates. Regardless, it clearly shows a desire from the public to be more involved.

More specifically, Robert Half has noted that in terms of regions London has among the highest number of private employees discussing politics in the workplace (standing at 93%) compared to only 78% in the Midlands. With almost half (45%) of London consisting of working aged people aged 20-39 this is perhaps not surprising: this encapsulates both the younger vote and those more likely to be affected by the current political landscape of austerity and cuts.

It is perhaps almost necessary then for this increase in workplace discussion to take place. As mentioned there is no doubt that the younger and working age vote is now being targeted by political parties from across the board, resulting in an increased attempt to get this key demographic engaged with politics: a subject which may sometimes be seen as boring by the younger generations.

The increased discussion of politics may disprove this commonly held idea. The London figures clearly show that the younger and working generations are concerned about politics and do not take their vote lightly.

Though it is important to ensure that this discussion is done so sensitively. There is no denying that certain areas of politics lend themselves more towards arguments than others (consider membership of the EU, abortion limits and unemployment benefits) and so it is perhaps advisable to consider carefully the different areas for discussion so as not to upset colleagues or superiors. After all, it is more important to stay on good terms with those who employees spend the majority of their time with.

That being said, private employees achieve their position in the company through both hard work and social skills. So whilst some tact may be needed in the workplace when discussing potentially sensitive topics, overall the discussions will be more of benefit rather than a risk to workplace standing.

The benefits of discussing politics in the workplace are huge. Work takes up more and more time in an effort to make ends meet, whilst employees find it harder and harder to keep up to date with current affairs. Through using time at work, be it during lunch break or during downtime, employees become far better able to develop informed opinions on policies, something which is essential in the current political climate.

With so many different parties to choose from, all with an unprecedented chance at determining the leadership of the country, it is important for employees to seize the opportunity that the workplace affords them. Through doing this, voters will be in a far better position to research not only why they vote for the party they choose, but also to understand why their colleagues are voting for either the same or a different candidate.

Overall, this increase in viewing politics as a workplace subject may have been a steady one, but many people will still regard it as a taboo subject. If it is realised that political discussion is not only not seen as a taboo but actively encouraged, it seems likely that the upcoming election will have a very different feel about it.

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