As the nation grapples with the ongoing cost of living crisis fueled by inflation, a report by Statista Research also revealed that nearly half of Britons cited the economy as a top societal concern, closely followed by health issues, demand for health services and NHS staffing woes. World conflicts and immigration also emerge as pressing issues. 

Despite leaders’ pledges to address these issues and work towards ending wars and conflicts, tensions remain high among the electorate. These tensions inevitably shape people’s values and dominate their discussions.

Against this backdrop, HiBob conducted its second annual survey in January 2024 on the topic of sociopolitical discussions at work. With insights from 2000 professionals, the survey delves into employees’ perspectives on political expression, addressing the appropriateness, location, and manner of political discourse. As we explore the findings, we aim to assist employers in understanding and responding to the challenges posed by sociopolitical dynamics in the workplace.

Key Takeaways

People continue to be deterred from joining a company if a company’s political stance opposes theirs

A significant number of respondents would reject a job offer if the company’s political stance opposed theirs, with 43% stating they would turn it down. This is consistent with last year’s findings, where 44% felt the same. Interestingly, both men (42%) and women (43%) are almost equally aligned on this issue. Nearly twice as many people aged 35-44 (12%) compared to those aged 45-54 (7%) say they would reject a job offer if the company’s political stance opposes their own.

Opposing political stances will not prompt employees to leave a company

The story changes once they’re hired. Nearly half (49%) wouldn’t leave their job even if their employer’s political views diverge from theirs – this is a decrease from last year’s 60%. This shift suggests that while political alignment plays a role in initial job decisions, factors like job satisfaction, career advancement, and workplace atmosphere are paramount for lasting commitment. Nevertheless, the decline indicates that more individuals draw a line when it comes to political or societal opinions, with fewer willing to stay in their roles under such circumstances compared to last year.

Strong consensus to keep politics out of the office and company communication channels, as well as personal-professional social media platforms

Most people (64%) believe socio-political discussions should stay out of the office to protect company culture. A higher percentage (74%) think these topics should be excluded from companies’ digital communication channels, and 61% feel they should also be kept off individuals’ professional social media like LinkedIn and X. If allowed, 72% say such discussions should happen in safe, respectful spaces. Generational differences exist between Gen Z and those over 25 with 59% of Gen Z (59%) believing respectful sociopolitical discourse fosters inclusivity and should be allowed.

People believe respectful discourse should be encouraged in order to nurture a legitimately inclusive and diverse company culture

Over half (55%) of respondents see fostering respectful discourse as key to an inclusive and diverse company culture, with Gen Z being the largest group of advocates. A significant majority (72%) also stress the necessity of discussing sociopolitical topics within safe spaces, where opposing opinions can be voiced respectfully. Interestingly, there’s a slight edge in the number of people (39%) who disagree with banning sociopolitical discussions from workplaces compared to those (35%) who support such a ban. This underscores the value placed on open dialogue and exchange of ideas within professional environments.

Concerns about careers and relationships persist when sharing sociopolitical opinions with managers and colleagues

Overall, a majority (42%) of respondents express concern that sharing a political opinion with a manager who disagrees could have negative consequences for their position within the company. Notably, fewer women (25%) than men (30%) share this concern, highlighting a gender disparity in perceived risk. However, similar percentages of both men (36%) and women (35%) agree that sharing political opinions with colleagues who hold different views could harm relationships and potentially impact team productivity. In total, almost half (49%) of respondents believe that expressing political opinions differing from their colleagues could strain relationships and impede team effectiveness.

Having clear company policies is the best way to prepare workplaces for any discussion that might arise from sociopolitical issues of the day

The majority (30%) advocate for clear work policies as the top strategy to ready workplaces for discussions on sociopolitical issues. Another 15% endorse open dialogue platforms, such as channels or forums for respectful discourse. Additionally, 14% suggest training on conflict resolution could be beneficial. Intriguingly, another 14% believe none of these approaches would be effective.


Employer brand 

As nations grow more divided on sociopolitical issues, companies must balance taking a stance, making allowances, and managing diverse forums. This study examines how a company’s political stance impacts its employer brand, influencing candidates’ job decisions and employees’ retention.

People continue to be deterred from joining a company if its political stance opposes theirs. A significant number of respondents (43%) would reject a job offer in such cases, consistent with last year’s 44%. Both men (42%) and women (43%) are almost equally aligned on this issue. Nearly twice as many people aged 35-44 (12%) compared to those aged 45-54 (7%) say they would reject a job offer if the company’s political stance opposes their own.

However, once hired, the narrative changes. Nearly half (49%) wouldn’t leave their job even if their employer’s political views diverge from theirs, though this is a decrease from last year’s 60%. This suggests that while political alignment influences initial job decisions, factors like job satisfaction, career growth, and workplace culture are more crucial for long-term retention. The decline indicates that more individuals are drawing a line regarding political or societal opinions, with fewer willing to stay in their roles under such circumstances compared to last year.

Generational differences are also evident. Almost twice as many people aged 35-44 (12%) as those aged 45-54 (7%) agree that a company’s opposing political stance would deter them from accepting a job. This highlights the varying priorities and sensitivities across age groups when it comes to workplace politics.

The study reveals a definite ambivalence regarding whether socio-political discussions should be banned from workplaces. Only slightly more people (39%) disagree with the idea of banning such discussions compared to the 35% who support a ban. Moreover, there’s a significant portion (26%) who haven’t formed an opinion on the matter, indicating widespread uncertainty or indecision.

Interestingly, the age group with the strongest advocacy against a ban is the 35-44-year-olds, with 11% opposed to the idea and 10% in favour. This suggests that this demographic is particularly engaged in the debate and holds strong opinions on the importance of allowing socio-political discussions in the workplace.

Where and how should sociopolitical issues be discussed at work?

Expanding on our 2023 research, the latest report revisits respondents’ views on where sociopolitical discussions should unfold. We delve into their opinions on workplace discussions, company digital channels, and social media. Just like last year, emotions run high, highlighting the ongoing intensity surrounding this topic.

Political discussions in the office

The results reveal an ongoing trend: 55% of respondents advocate for fostering respectful sociopolitical debate as a means to nurture an authentically inclusive and diverse company culture, although this figure marks a significant decline from last year’s 74%. Interestingly, this viewpoint is particularly prevalent among individuals aged 34-45, suggesting a generational alignment on the importance of open dialogue.

Moreover, a substantial majority of 72% agree that sociopolitical topics require safe spaces for voicing opinions, with 20% of this group falling within the 35-44 age bracket. This indicates a strong endorsement for creating environments where employees feel comfortable expressing their views without fear of judgement or repercussion. Notably, the next largest advocacy group comprises individuals over 54 years old, with 16% supporting the need for safe spaces.

These findings highlight the evolving landscape of workplace culture and the increasing recognition of the importance of fostering respectful dialogue across generations.

Political discussions over company digital communications channels & social media

The results paint a clear picture: the majority (64%) strongly believe socio-political discussions should stay out of the office to avoid negatively impacting company culture. A whopping 74% feel the same way about these discussions in company digital communication channels, with 61% agreeing they should also be kept off personal-professional social media platforms like LinkedIn and X. However, if these topics are to be allowed at work, 72% insist they should be conducted in safe spaces and with respect.

Interestingly, both men and women stand united on this front, with 53% of respondents from each gender agreeing. Furthermore, a significant portion (43%) believe companies should prevent employees from posting political opinions on personal-professional social media channels, although 35% disagree.

Age demographics also play a role in these views. More individuals aged 35-44 (17%) than any other age group believe sociopolitical discussions should be kept out of the office, followed closely by those over 54 (16%). Similarly, the 35-44 age group (20%) feels most strongly about keeping political discussions out of company digital communication channels, followed by 15% of millennials (aged 25-34) and 14% of 45-54-year-olds.

The trend continues with older generations keen on keeping these debates off company communication channels (17% agreeing), and the 35-44 age group feeling most strongly about this on social media platforms (17%), followed by 14% of those over 54.

Overall, opinions are split on whether companies should entirely ban employees from posting about politics on social media, with 43% in favour and 35% opposed. Once again, individuals aged 35-44 and over 54 are the most fervently in favour of preventing such postings (14%).

The ramifications of discussing politics in the workplace

We also wanted to learn more about employees’ perceptions regarding the ramifications of sharing their political opinions with managers and colleagues.

Sharing an opinion with managers and colleagues at work

The findings regarding the ramifications of discussing politics and social issues at work with managers and colleagues offer intriguing insights. Overall, a majority (42%) agree that sharing a political opinion with a manager who disagrees could harm both themselves and their position within the company. Interestingly, fewer women (25%) than men (30%) believe that sharing differing political opinions with their manager could lead to negative consequences. However, similar percentages of men (36%) and women (35%) agree that sharing political opinions with colleagues could harm relationships and decrease team productivity.

In total, 49% feel that expressing political opinions differing from those of their colleagues could have adverse effects on relationships and productivity. The 35-44 age group (14%) is most concerned about the potential negative impact on relationships and productivity, followed by only 9% of those aged 45-54 and 11% of those over 54.

Notably, almost twice as many individuals aged 35-44 (12%) compared to those aged 45-54 (7%) believe that sharing a political opinion their manager disagrees with could harm their position within the company. This age group appears less confident about sharing their true views compared to other age groups, with those aged 45-54 being the most confident (7%).

Interestingly, people feel more comfortable sharing religious views than political leanings, with 60% agreeing they feel comfortable doing so.

Effective Workplace Preparation for Sociopolitical Issues

The findings provide valuable insights into employee perspectives on how workplaces can prepare for handling potential issues stemming from sociopolitical debate. The majority of respondents (55%) believe that having clear workplace policies is the most effective way to prepare for mitigating challenges that may arise, emphasising the importance of establishing transparent guidelines to navigate potentially sensitive topics and maintain a conducive work environment.

Additionally, 17% of respondents advocate for comprehensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training as an effective strategy. This highlights the recognition of the role that education and awareness play in fostering understanding and respect among employees from diverse backgrounds.

A further 15% of respondents suggest that allowing open dialogue platforms, such as channels or forums for employees to engage in respectful discussions, can help facilitate constructive conversations around sociopolitical issues. This indicates a desire for spaces where individuals can express their viewpoints openly while fostering an environment of mutual respect and understanding.

Overall, these findings underline the importance of proactive measures in addressing political debate at work. By implementing these strategies, companies can create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture that encourages healthy discourse and fosters positive relationships among employees.

The majority (45%) believe that companies should maintain neutrality on sociopolitical matters. However, there’s an interesting gender divide on whether companies should publicly take a stance on controversial issues. Nearly a quarter (24%) of men feel that companies should refrain from having a public position on such matters, in contrast to only 17% of women who share this view.

This discrepancy suggests differing perspectives on the role of companies in addressing societal issues. While some advocate for neutrality to avoid potential conflicts or alienation of certain demographics, others may see value in corporate activism and taking a stand on issues aligned with their values.

The results offer an intriguing glimpse into employees’ views on whether their company CEO should publicly engage in political and social issues. A significant portion, 40%, do not believe their CEO should take a public stance on such matters, indicating a preference for business leaders to steer clear of potentially divisive topics. Surprisingly, over a quarter (26%) admit uncertainty on the matter, reflecting a hesitancy or lack of clarity surrounding the role of CEOs in addressing societal issues.

Interestingly, a notable 14% of respondents express that it doesn’t matter whether their CEO takes a public stance, suggesting a level of indifference or resignation to the CEO’s involvement in sociopolitical discourse or possibly subject matter fatigue.

Delving into gender differences reveals intriguing nuances. More men (45%) than women (26%) believe their CEO should not take a public position on sociopolitical matters, indicating a stronger inclination among men towards CEO neutrality. 

However, a significant proportion of women (31%) admit uncertainty on this issue, surpassing the percentage of men (20%) who share this sentiment.

Inside Workplace Minds: Debate, Identity, and Conflict

Comfort levels at work and how political and social debates impact feelings

Overall, the top three topics that were most discussed in the office this year are war and conflicts, tax and government policy, and immigration.

Delving into gender-specific trends provides further insights. Among men, the top three most discussed topics are war, climate change, and immigration. Conversely, women’s discussions centred on war, immigration, and healthcare access.

When it comes to the prevalence of conflicts and disagreements among colleagues, overall, a significant majority (83%) report that they have never experienced a falling out with a colleague over socio-political views. However, there are notable gender differences in this regard.

Fewer men (79%) can claim they have never experienced such conflicts compared to women (87%). This suggests that women may navigate socio-political discussions in the workplace more smoothly or may be more adept at avoiding conflicts related to differing views.

Conversely, a surprising 21% of men admit to having experienced a falling out with colleagues over socio-political views. This indicates a higher propensity among men to engage in heated discussions or experience conflicts stemming from differing political opinions. 

The findings also shed light on the experiences of employees regarding voicing their opinions at work and feeling comfortable bringing their full selves to the workplace.

Almost one in six individuals (57%) report never having felt uncomfortable expressing their opinions at work, which may have hindered them from fully engaging in their roles. A higher proportion of men (61%) compared to women (54%) share this sentiment, suggesting that men may feel more confident or less inhibited when it comes to expressing themselves openly in professional settings. 

The results do also reveal a concerning trend, with almost a third of respondents (31%) indicating that they have experienced discomfort when voicing their opinions at work. Notably, a higher percentage of women (33%) than men (29%) report feeling this way, suggesting that women may face greater challenges or barriers when it comes to speaking up in the workplace.

Only 11% of individuals aged 25-34 reported never feeling uncomfortable expressing themselves, making them the age group least at ease in this regard. Conversely, those aged 35-44 appear to be the most comfortable expressing themselves, with the highest percentage feeling at ease in this respect.

This difference in confidence might also explain why fewer women believe that CEOs or companies should take public stances on political or social issues.These findings highlight the importance of creating inclusive and supportive work environments where all employees feel empowered to voice their opinions without fear of judgement or reprisal.

When asked how conversations in the workplace about social or political topics make people feel, the most popular response, chosen by 23% of respondents, is that they don’t feel anything, suggesting a sense of fatigue or apathy towards these discussions. 

This indifference may reflect a desire to avoid conflict or discomfort associated with such topics. Following closely behind, 17% of respondents reported feeling uncomfortable, indicating a reluctance or unease in engaging with socio-political discussions at work.

Notably, in joint third place, 9% of respondents expressed feeling heard or supported during these conversations, suggesting a positive aspect to socio-political discourse in the workplace where individuals feel validated or encouraged in expressing their viewpoints.

Further analysis reveals gender disparities in comfort levels during these conversations, with more women (20%) than men (14%) reporting feeling uncomfortable.

Where does it leave us?

Today almost everything seems to be viewed through a political lens. Whether it’s a company’s efforts to drive positive change, adopt new technologies, or champion diversity and inclusion, each action can be seen as taking a sociopolitical stance. And here’s the catch: this stance becomes intertwined with the company’s identity as an employer, impacting whether job seekers decide to join the team.

However, even though many believe politics should stay out of the workplace—especially during pivotal moments like elections, war or global crises—the reality is, avoiding sociopolitical discussions altogether isn’t always feasible. And here’s where things get interesting – when it comes to opinions and feelings, there are bound to be generational gaps and gender disparities.

That’s why it’s absolutely crucial for companies to ensure that no group feels left out when crafting a workplace that’s supportive and inclusive for all. By actively listening to their employees and establishing clear guidelines for respectful conversations, companies can create safe spaces where discussions can thrive. And in doing so, they not only support and encourage a culture of respect and inclusivity, they also pave the way for stronger working relationships and a more cohesive team.