Trump vs. Clinton: Who Do U.S. Workers Fight About Most?

by Pat DiDomenico on July 29, 2016

Most political conventions are scripted, made-for-TV affairs with much sound but little fury. But this year’s versions of the Democratic and Republican gatherings were highlighted by loud, public internal squabbles that played out nightly on TV. The Bernie-or-Bust crowd made a ruckus at the Dems’ gathering, and the anybody-but-Trumpers hollered until the final GOP gavel.

That same sort of commotion is playing out in workplaces across the country, says a pair of recent surveys. More than a quarter (26%) of HR professionals report an increase in political-related tension and arguments this election season, says a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey.

And, according to CareerBuilder, 30% of managers and 17% of employees have admitted to arguing with a co-worker over a particular candidate this election season, most often about Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Here’s the statistical breakdown of the office debates:  

  • MANAGERS: 19% of managers say they’ve argued with a co-worker over the merits of Donald Trump, says the CareerBuilder study. In comparison, 17% have debated the pros/cons of Hillary. When looking at the gender of managers, both male and female bosses say they’ve debated with a co-worker over Trump (22% of men vs. 16% of women). But male managers are nearly twice as likely as women to say they’ve argued with a co-worker over Clinton (21% vs. 11%).
  • INDUSTRY: Nearly half of managers in IT (47%) say they debate politics at work, followed by managers in manufacturing (37%), professional services (30%), financial services (29%), health care (24%) and retail (23%).  
  • EMPLOYEES: When it comes to rank-and-file staff, 13% of employees say they’ve argued with a co-worker over Trump and 8% have argued over Clinton. Male employees (20%) reported a higher incidence of arguing politics at work than female employees (15%). Comparing age groups, younger workers (ages 18-24) are the most likely to report engaging in heated political debates at work.

How should HR respond?

While most HR professionals (72%) say their organizations discourage political activities at work, only 24% of American employers have written policies on the issue, says the SHRM survey. Another 8% say their organizations have unwritten policies. (See box to see what those policies prohibit.)   

When it comes to keeping your workplace civil in politically contentious times, you must balance employees’ interest in speaking freely with your interest in maintaining order and productivity. In short, don’t put a complete gag order on all political discussions. Such a policy is impossible to enforce, plus it will choke morale and could actually open up your company to a lawsuit.

Instead, draft a policy that minimizes distractions, yet allows a certain amount of free speech. Then explain the policy to staff.

Online resource  For tips on writing a company policy that sets rules on respectful political discussions among staff, go to

Category: HR Soapbox