How do you feel about discussing politics with your co-workers in the office? What about talking about politics online? It appears our behaviour differs significantly when we communicate behind the mask of internet anonymity.
Social media is the new "water cooler" at work - the primary area of social exchange between co-workers. Interactions between co-workers often take place on company-controlled social platforms such as Slack, or privately on Twitter or Facebook.
Washington, DC-based ratings and reviews platform Clutch surveyed 500 US employees to learn what they felt about expressing political views online.
The survey revealed that younger employees view political discussion on social media much differently than they do face to face discussions whilst in the office.
Over one-third (36%) of employees under the age of 35 think it is important to work at a company that shares their political views. Only 20% of employees over 35 feel the same way.
Younger generations often feel more comfortable with social media interactions or expressing themselves on social media. However they want to separate their work and social life.
People aged between 18–34 tend to use social media more than older age groups. As a result, they may be more impacted as a group by company policies that deal with social media.
Over one-third of companies (36%) already have a political expression policy in place, according to employees. Employees can feel more comfortable expressing their political views when they know their co-workers feel the same.
To avoid disrupting a company's culture, many employees support their employer monitoring and regulating co-workers' personal social media use at the office.
However, almost half (45%) of younger employees aged between 18-34 disagree that their company should regulate whether employees can use social media while at work to express political views. This could be because they use social media more than older colleagues, or they prefer to separate their home and work lives.
The challenge is that social media interactions often lack the social cues and emotions associated with in-person interactions. Employees may find it more difficult to show empathy when coworkers interact or express an opinion via social media.
Overall, what rights do employees have to discuss politics on social media versus in the workplace? Do you think that companies' political expression policies should extend to personal social media profiles? And if they do, where must a company – or an employee – draw the line at what can be said online?
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