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Strong workplace democracy creates political trust
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Strong workplace democracy creates political trust

1,700 Flemish workers expose their political views. It turns out that our well-being in the workplace is inextricably linked to our voting behavior.
Peggy de prins phd
by Peggy De Prins, PhD | June 6, 2024
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While overall trust in our politics has been low in recent years, our workplaces can change that. In fact, research by AMS, SDWorx and Het Nieuwsblad shows that workplace democracy improves trust in our broader democracy. 1,700 Flemish workers expose their well-being and political views.

Low levels of trust

Almost every election period, people are polled on their general satisfaction with the political state of affairs ... which is often followed by a negative response. It is no different on our work floors: only 35% of respondents are satisfied with the functioning of Belgian democracy, and only 20% believe that politicians have a good understanding of what is going on in society. Especially operational profiles and less educated people have a bleak outlook.

Employee participation increases democratic trust

Wat blijkt? Dergelijke medewerkers, die een grote participatie en psychologische veiligheid voelen, hebben ook meer vertrouwen in de bredere politiek en democratie, en vice versa.

But democracy at work is doing better. More than half of workers feel that their ideas are taken into account, and 60% even call their impact great. Moreover, the majority of respondents are not afraid of negative consequences if they express a different opinion. They can be vulnerable, but still feel valued as professional employees.

These employees, who feel great participation and psychological safety, also turn out to have more trust in broader politics and democracy, and vice versa.

“When workers have to perform their daily labor in a context where they are not heard or where they have little influence, it is no surprise that they are no longer democrats when they leave the factory gate.”

— Jan Vanthournout, Senior Legal Manager at SD Worx

Our participation also colors our vote

That workers with a more extreme voting preference (Vlaams Belang or PVDA) have lower political trust is not new. What is striking, however, is that they experience a much more limited employee democracy than their counterparts: extreme voters generally feel less heard and less psychologically safe in the workplace.

In contrast, the differences between right-wing (Open VLD, N-VA or CD&V) and left-wing voters (Vooruit or Groen) are minimal. Workers who do not yet have a voting preference or want to cast a blank vote are somewhere in between. Moreover, they - like the extreme voters - feel that they cannot quite be themselves at work.

The greater the inclusion in the workplace, the better workers' sense of well-being - although this also appears to be related to their political views and social well-being. Extreme and blank voters are more likely to feel alienated, both in the workplace, and within the broader society. The workplace thus acts as a taster of what workers also expect in the outside world.

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