Why EY Wants Employees to Talk about Politics at Work


To call the current political climate “distracting” would be a bit of an understatement. The 2016 election results caught most of the country by surprise, and people say the news coming out of Washington continues to make it harder for employees to focus on work.

Karyn Twaronite, EY’s Global Diversity and Inclusiveness Officer, received a deluge of emails from concerned employees in the days following the election.

But despite divisive rhetoric on the campaign trail, in C-suites the conversation has increasingly been about embracing differences, according to Twaronite.

“I would say the diversity and inclusion dialogue has never been more at the forefront,” she said, though she saw a growing emphasis on the topic prior to the election.

Now the commitment to a variety of perspectives and backgrounds in the workplace is being tested by polarized political views in the same office.

“We have a culture where we ask people to be open and talk about their differences on a regular basis,” Twaronite said, noting the importance of inclusiveness in a time when most employees spend more time in the workplace with their colleagues than at home. “For many people now, companies are their communities.”

Employees were encouraged to talk about their reactions and concerns to political events within their teams, she said.

EY’s global chairman, Mark Weinberger, is a member of Trump’s economic advisory panel and was recently announced as one of two male CEOs selected to advise the president on women in the workplace.

“He will bring our EY values of diversity and inclusiveness to that table,” Twaronite said in a statement. “This is an opportunity to have a greater impact on some of today’s challenges around important matters, such as advancing women in the workforce.”

Like many companies trying to navigate government relations under the new administration, the balance between protecting employees and working to affect policy becomes tenuous as maintaining political neutrality gets more difficult. Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour and Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon have both received criticism for trying to play both sides of the political situation.

“I think everyone’s hopeful that we’ll have a voice in educating him on things that we see in the workplace, about jobs, about the disruption that’s going on, talk about issues such as income inequality, as well as what will be necessary to create more jobs and improve the economy,” Weinberger, EY’s CEO, said at Davos last month.

Just two weeks later he issued a statement in response to the immigration ban, saying it would affect EY’s “ability to work as a globally connected organization.” He reiterated EY’s commitment to inclusiveness and offered to help any employees impacted by the executive order.

Many other executives reacted to the ban including Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, all members of Trump’s advisory council.

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