New survey suggests tech companies sabotage workplace culture by pushing a political agenda

The survey results reflected an ideologically diverse workforce

The tech community has been a target of criticism in recent years for fostering intolerance against minority viewpoints in the workplace. Silicon Valley CEOs recognize the problem too. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, admitted that conservative employees at his company “don’t feel safe to express their opinions.” A new Lincoln Network study confirms a shocking level of viewpoint intolerance in the tech community, especially at companies that promote a political agenda.

Many tech companies purport to value a “bring your whole self to work” ethos, and to encourage a free flow of viewpoints and ideas. Yet Lincoln Network’s Viewpoint Inclusion and Cultural Norms in the Tech Industry Survey results point to a completely opposite reality: that tech workers are afraid to express views that deviate from their employers’ political agenda, and believe that they would be ostracized or fired for it. The tech industry has two choices: remain inhospitable towards diverse viewpoints and continue to alienate a large swath of talent and consumers, or change their tune and implement serious viewpoint inclusion reform in the workplace.

Lincoln Network surveyed nearly two thousand tech professionals from across the country to better understand how viewpoint intolerance impacts workplace culture. The Viewpoint Inclusion and Cultural Norms in the Tech Industry Survey was conducted between October and November of 2018 and all respondents were employed by tech companies in the US, including Google, Facebook, Apple, and many more.

  • The survey found that nearly half of the respondents believe the company they work for promotes a political agenda, showing a clear left lean between a liberal agenda (47.7 percent), conservative agenda (37.9 percent), and “other” agenda (14.4 percent).
  • Roughly half of these respondents say the ideological atmosphere affects their ability to do their work.
  • A startling 63 percent of tech professionals at agenda-driven tech companies report that disagreeing with a colleague will often lead to workplace ridicule. Only 1 in 5 employees at companies that don’t promote a political agenda feel that way.
  • Tech company employees who identify as either “very liberal” or “very conservative” are the cohort that is most likely to support firing employees for expressing offensive views.
  • Roughly half of tech employees who identify as “very conservative” say they know someone who either did not pursue or left a career in tech due to ideological conflicts with their company.
  • The same respondents on the far left and the far right who want their coworkers fired for expressing offensive views are more likely to believe that their company actually values viewpoint inclusion. Despite high levels of viewpoint intolerance in the tech community, the study found overwhelming agreement that tech companies should encourage a diversity of viewpoints.

In addition to the quantitative data, we collected thousands of comments from tech professionals detailing personal experiences and challenges in the tech community related to viewpoint intolerance:

  • “I am happy, with the exception of my time at work where I feel like the choices I have made in my beliefs label me as stupid, a bigot, deplored, and more. This has been going on for far longer than Trump’s time in office. I am coming to the conclusion that we cannot live or work together any longer. It is too painful.” -Moderate respondent
  • “Not current employer, but previous employer allowed and encouraged political/social issue speech and it became disruptive to work. There was a lot of disharmony among employees. Current employer, we never talk about it and nobody cares. The focus remains on work and everyone is happy about it.” -Very liberal respondent
  • “Basically, you have to keep a facade and just smile, nod when comments you deeply disagree with are made because of the monoculture. It’s a very isolating and ostracizing environment. There’s no break from it sometimes … Just walking to lunch even the surrounding strangers give no rest with their constant negative talking against my views. It can be very disheartening.” -Conservative respondent
  • “The CEO explicitly asked anyone who voted for Trump in 2016 to resign. I find that unprofessional, uncalled for, and it pretty much guarantees that the dozen conservatives working at the company are afraid of being outed.” -Libertarian respondent
  • “The standard with which we are expected to treat each other is overtly and unapologetically progressive and liberal… I don’t consider this standard necessarily incompatible with externally-facing political neutrality, either, but there is no charge from management to distinguish what’s enforced on users from what’s enforced on coworkers, at least not one I consider clear enough to address what I see as a moral hazard.” -Liberal respondent
  • “It seems like the organization is configured to honor the “aggrieved veto” — if someone indicates that a particular viewpoint is hostile or offensive, it can be dangerous to voice that viewpoint or even say that people who have that viewpoint should be permitted to speak.” -Moderate respondent
  • “I was very discouraged to find out that my company fired their top trainer who was the absolute best at his job because he was a conservative family man… Someone at my company found out that he had different viewpoints than the executives and since he is visible with training customers and employees he shouldn’t have that right. If any of us make our viewpoints public to an executive, we will probably be fired.” -Very conservative respondent

Click here to learn more about viewpoint inclusion and to see the full survey results.

For more information please contact viewpoints@joinlincoln.org.

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