As UK Election Approaches, One in Six Workers Fall Out with Colleague Over Political Views

As the UK election nears, HiBob, the company behind the HR platform Bob, revealed that one in six (17%) Brits had fallen out with a colleague or manager over opposing political views. Additionally, almost a third (31%) felt uncomfortable voicing an opinion at work, preventing them from bringing their full self into the office.

This came alongside a 19% annual increase in the number of Brits who believed that sociopolitical discussions should be kept out of the office due to their potential negative impact on company culture.

Gen Z Advocates for Keeping Politics in the Office

Not all colleagues agreed that sociopolitical discussions should be excluded from the office. Generational differences caused tension at work. Almost six in ten (59%) Gen Z (18-to-24-year-olds) employees felt respectful sociopolitical discourse should be encouraged to nurture an inclusive and diverse company culture, whereas two-thirds (65%) of those aged 25 and over believed that sociopolitical discussions should be kept out of the office due to their impact on company culture.

Despite advocating for sociopolitical discussions in the workplace, HiBob’s research revealed a quarter (24%) of Gen Z workers had fallen out with a colleague or manager over opposing political views, higher than all other age groups. They were also the least comfortable openly sharing who they were voting for in the next election (43%).

One in five (20%) said they felt worried about having sociopolitical discussions at work, but they also said these conversations made them feel supported (22%), heard (19%), and empowered (14%) at work, directly contrasting with over-45s, 40% of whom ‘didn’t feel anything’ in relation to sociopolitical conversations at work.

Nearly three-quarters of Brits (72%) agreed that sociopolitical topics, when discussed at work, needed to be talked about in a safe space where voicing opposing opinions was respectful.

Discussions On and Off the Table

This year, discussions about war and conflict (40%), immigration and refugee policies (32%), and climate change (32%) had increased in the office compared with 2023. Brits felt most comfortable discussing human rights (72%), healthcare access (78%), and climate change (74%) in the office, while the most uncomfortable topics included immigration and refugee policies (29%), racial and ethnic discrimination (28%), and war and conflicts (27%). Gen Z was the most uncomfortable discussing these topics.

Almost one in five (19%) UK workers believed employers should take a public position on political and social issues, increasing to a third (33%) among Gen Z employees.

Impact on Talent Pool

Sociopolitical conversations and opinions significantly impacted individuals' decisions to work at a company, particularly for Gen Z. More than half (53%) of this age group said an employer’s political stance opposing theirs would deter them from accepting a job offer (17% higher than over-45s), and 30% said an employer’s opposing political stance would prompt them to leave (8% higher than over-45s).

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

Ronni Zehavi, CEO of HiBob comments, “As a UK general election is announced polarisation  around social and political issues is reaching new depths, our research shows that discourse has become ever more prominent in the workplace. Despite a range of opposing views on what conversations should be kept in and kept out of the office, younger members of the workforce believe social and political conversations nurture an inclusive and diverse culture so organisations will have to prepare to handle these conversations. Leaders and HR teams will need to ensure workplaces create clear boundaries and safe spaces where every voice is heard, and colleagues can interact respectfully.

“While the journey may not always be smooth, and at times feel very uncomfortable, I know from experience that creating spaces where employees feel comfortable to have sociopolitical discussions will enable team members to show up to work every day as their authentic self. In turn, teams are strengthened, foster creativity and innovation, having a positive impact on professional relationships in the long term.”