Post-election America is a divided one. For many corporations, already gunshy around politics, the polarizing nature of the Trump administration has turned workplace political discussions into a minefield. It’s especially tough inside agencies, which are liberal by nature: Ironically, they tout inclusiveness but tend to punish — or at least ostracize — more conservative outliers.
So in this edition of Ask a Millennial, we asked our focus group of agency employees about how open political views were at their agencies. Answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
Male, 24, strategy, New York
I’m British. I used to have regular debates in the office about stuff across the political spectrum, but since moving to the U.S., I’ve felt the need to somewhat hold back. My experience is people separate their personal and social lives from their work persona a lot more rigorously here than in the U.K., so it’s hardly surprising that their political views would follow the same pattern.
Female, 31, strategy, North Carolina
We have a “no asshole” policy that is critical to our culture, and while we feel safe to express our views and debate, we know where that line lies. Some issues transcend politics and are about human decency. In particular, when HB2 was enacted in North Carolina [the so-called “bathroom bill,” widely perceived as anti-LGBT], we applied our creative skills to a campaign to raise awareness to oppose the bill. As a group, it is true most of us lean liberal on social issues and therefore left politically, but there’s a level of respect that is expected, regardless of party affiliation. When Trump won, without even coordinating, a large contingent showed up to work the next day dressed in black, and we felt safe to openly mourn as we watched Hillary’s concession in a presentation theater. But during the Inauguration, an email came through from leadership that asked us to participate in a spirit of moving the nation forward.
Female, 30, strategy, New York
Just knowing most people in the office, and speaking to a wide-enough sample after the election, I would estimate that fewer than 5 percent of our total office voted for Trump. If I had to sum it up, I honestly don’t think a Trump voter would fit in here (at least, among agency services; perhaps corporate is a different story). The morning after the election, everyone came in shocked and was talking openly with each other about how disappointed they were with the result. Including white men. I would say the assumption remains that you can still openly talk about how he’s terrible, and you’ll be with the overwhelming majority.
Male, 34, creative, New York
First, when it comes to politics, I’m a bit of a black swan in the creative industry given that I’m what I would call a conservatarian. People always assume that, because of my age and job as a copywriter/creative, I’m a liberal. If and when this is ever brought to the forefront, there are usually a few people who will IM or email me to say they share my viewpoints, and that they thought they were the only ones who held these viewpoints.
I have always given and received respect, though lately I have found myself treading a little more carefully with what I say. I will say that I’ve always found it odd when management does make their political opinions well known. What can someone who disagrees possibly offer in retort? Today’s political climate is so polarized that if I owned an agency, I’d be very sure to keep tabs on the conversations happening within the office. Given the like-minded nature of the industry, and that corporations tend to put a more liberal face to their brands, you see far more liberal viewpoints than conservative. I would never tell anyone to be silent or change their views for career expediency, but if you’re not a liberal, I would strongly suggest you pick your battles.
Female, 27, Texas
At my current agency, discussion of politics is very open and in some cases too open. Even prior to the new administration, most people didn’t shy away from voicing their opinions. Most people also generally had the same thoughts and feelings. While it was OK to discuss politics regardless of what side you considered the “right” side, most voiced political discussions involved opinions and people of the same “right” side. Those people that had opposing views either remained silent, had “closed door” conversations after the fact or only shared their true thoughts with a trusted few of the opposing side. Management has not made an official statement, but I don’t think we need them to.
Male, 28, Wyoming
Everyone I know voted Trump. Everyone here did. At the same time, I think we talk about it less than people might think. There was some buzz post-election, but now we’re not really thinking about it that much. The politics of our personal lives have no room at work. It’s not discouraged, but neither is it really encouraged.
Female, 29, communications, NYC
I think my major discomfort stems from how polarizing the political climate is right now. There are no ‘casual’ conversations about politics, like, say, the best deli on the street. People are fired up — and I cringe a little when people bring up politics at work, because who knows how that fire will spread? I personally am all over the map, when it comes to my opinions on some of the issues in the forefront right now – women’s march, climate change, cabinet picks. But I certainly don’t discuss my point of view at work. I save my debates for the people on whom I don’t depend for deliverables.
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