As a began my internship this summer the number one (firm) suggestion I was given was never to discuss politics in the workplace.
Let me tell you, as a political science major that was rather disheartening. But, I get it. It seems that during this administration, in particular, America is more discomforted by politics than ever.
That being said, the workplace is changing. What we see today does not remotely resemble the workplace we saw even ten years ago. And a large part of that change is directly connected to politics. No longer can you categorize all facets of politics as irrelevant in the workplace because politics are transforming the workplace.
Before I dive too deeply into my argument, let me emphasize that politics do not pertain exclusively to who a person votes for. It encompasses the beliefs and principles represented by parties and the way in which they implement them.
This change that I previously mentioned is driven by the emerging of Millennials and Gen Z into the workforce. When you look to Baby Boomers and Generation X, as a unit, having a job at all is viewed as enough. They view a job as an income and a means of putting food on the table, but Millennials have challenged this way of thinking.
A shift has taken place in which young professionals expect more than monetary benefits from their jobs. The sphere of occupations has expanded so greatly that professionals now go into interviews asking the interviewer what the company can do for them.
Young professionals find a greater importance in work-life-balance, a sense of meaning, company culture, and community- ideas that were not even discussed 50 years ago. These topics feed directly into politics. Questions being asked now include- Whose voice is being heard? What groups are represented? How does my work benefit the community it's serving?
Diversity and inclusion sit at the forefront of employee needs. And there is an abundance of research that proves the importance of diversity in the workplace. The most successful companies such as Google, Salesforce, and Facebook all place diversity as one of their core values. So, yes, politics are directly impacting the workplace. And yes, diversity and inclusion are of political inquiry.
Diversity and inclusion is two-fold. It is not just who is invited to the table, but also who is included in the conversation. To properly execute these tactics, issues such as the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling, the glass escalator, unconscious bias, and so on must be discussed. Our society is evolving through various political movements and their impacts are being directly seen in the workplace.
No, I do not need to know who you voted for, or even your political party. But yes, there does need to be room for conversation about these essential topics. We cannot continue to tiptoe around difficult conversations because frankly, it doesn't help anyone. Companies that do not actively participate in this change will not survive. Even if they can gain new talent, they simply will not be able to retain it.
This is not me saying that employees should have a free for all on the current political climate. But Corporate America must acknowledge that these conversations will take place with or without their approval or assistance. And without their guidance, such conversations have the potential to be damaging.
Employees need room to voice their concerns so create space for open dialogue. Be willing to make changes because change is happening with or without your approval.