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Political affiliation influences HR decisions

New discrimination factor revealed



Whether a candidate has got the same political affiliation as the HR manager who is assessing his/her application might decide over a job approval or declination. Far more than assumed till now and much stronger than known factors of political incorrectness like race, sex or religion similar political views between the interviewer and the interviewee give way to sympathy or antipahty, contempt or even hatred. Individual features of qualification as education, experience, stress restistence or capacity for teamwork lose on importance if compared. That much politics is arousing emotions – even somewhere you won´t expect it. Impact and implications of these correlations are elaborated on in a new US study via the socalled PAM – Political Affiliation Model.

Particularly in the negative case – the candidate does not share the political standpoint of the HR manager – he/she is pretty much quickly stereotyped (i.e. conservatives would be only interested in making money and working selfishly on their careers). With this approach HR managers can more easily ignore existing and verifiable competences .

The authors point out that in times of ongoing radicalisation of politics in the US, but also in Europe, this type of discrimination has to be watched closely and has to be kept withing bounds. In Washington DC and in the state of Mississippi there is a law already which explicitly prohibits to take into account the political affiliation of candidates in any kind of personnel decision.

„The Role of Political Affiliation in Employment Decision: A Model and Research Agenda“, Roth/Goldberg/Thatcher Journal of Applied Psychology, 2017, Vol. 102, Nr. 9, 1286 – 1304.

From Practice:

Europe contrasts the US in having established a multi-party-system, so polarization known to the American public as „They and we“ had much less chances to develop here. Even on the old continent, though, there is a tendency towards political intensification meanwhile, and so in my opinion it is likely that Superiors and HR Managers decide upon candidates unknowingly also according to their accurate or assumed political affiliation. That means every sector is theoretically confronted with the results of the study. Especially in those organisations whose stakeholders are politicians or members of the political community, the new study can play a role for future reflections since there the candidate´s political preference and his/her presumed loyality to a specific political party is frequently considered more important than his/her qualifications.

What I am hearing most when supporting non-partisan candidates in their preparation for hearings in this context is how they should deal with that hidden agenda. Well, often the best option is to address the issue directly and confront the jury with the question how important one´s political affiliation actually is for getting the job. The candidate can build up his/her mind how the jury is coping with that issue and can decide then after the hearing much better, if he/she wants to join. Another option is to present strategies with political values embedded – in such a case the stakeholders can also make up their mind if they want to go for this candidate or not.

In my personal view I do hope that in the near future all parties understand that they proactively harm organisations more than benefit them in sticking to the tradition of not looking for the best but the most loyal employee only. And I am alerting clients who run for a job in an organisation close to politics that they might fall into dependence of the respective party if they do not fit into the shoes of the job called for.

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