Writing at Real Clear Markets, Alliance Defending Freedom's Jeremy Tedesco and Columbia Business School's Christos Makridis highlight results from the newly released "Freedom at Work" survey. Conducted by Ipsos, the poll surveyed over 3,000 American adults employed across a wide variety of professions and found that companies might be alienating their workforce by taking political stands on contentious social issues and creating a culture of intolerance toward diverse views in the workplace.

As Tedesco and Makridis point out, the survey found that when companies politicize their workplaces by taking divisive stands on hot button social issues, or by punishing employees for their political or religious views, they risk losing employees’ trust as well as the ability to recruit and retain top quality talent.

In the age of social justice activism and virtue signaling, a growing number of corporations are caving to external and internal activists’ demands that they use their resources and brands to advocate particular political outcomes on contentious social issues.Whatever near-term points corporations think they gain from pandering to political activists, a recent study and poll indicate that these corporations risk sustained alienation of their current and prospective employees (and their consumers, too) from such short-sighted behavior.

Another important finding from the survey is that corporations’ public stances on hot-button cultural issues are often at odds with their own workforces and customers. 

For instance, respondents were asked whether they support Parental Rights in Education bills “aim[ed] to protect the freedom of parents to decide what their kindergarten through 3rd grade children are taught in the classroom about sex and gender identity by limiting what teachers can discuss and requiring notification and consent of parents before sensitive topics can be addressed.”

Fifty-five percent of participants support such legislation—which was adopted by Florida in 2022—compared with only 14 percent who oppose it. This widespread support from employed survey respondents is notably out of sync with the bill’s widespread corporate opposition from the 284 large corporations (including The Walt Disney Corporation, Starbucks, Target, Apple, and financial institutions including Deutsche Bank and PNC Financial Services Groupthat signed the Human Rights Campaign’s statement opposing such state-level legislation. 

This apparent disconnect threatens to undermine trust with customers and employees. A plurality of employees (44 percent) say they are uncomfortable with their employer taking a stance on a controversial cultural issue that contradicts the views of many employees and customers, while 57 percent say that, as customers, they are likely to stop purchasing products or cancel subscriptions from brands that do not respect their values. 

If corporate America wants to earn and retain the trust of employees, companies will have to do far better when it comes to respecting their diverse religious and political views. They can start by adopting several Viewpoint Diversity Score standards and best practices that received significant support from survey respondents.First, companies should include respect for a wide range of religious and political beliefs as part of their commitment to diversity (66%). Second, they should adopt a policy that commits to respecting viewpoint diversity in the workplace (49%). Third, they should adopt a policy that respects the freedom of employees to engage in political activity on their own time, without having to fear repercussions at work (48%). And companies cannot just give lip service to these principles; if they don’t genuinely allow the freedom of expression among all, they will bear the costs.

To read the piece in full, click here.