Today is election day in the U.S. We may know which Presidential candidate won tonight or it may take days or even weeks before a winner is declared.
Either way, I ask you to imagine that your preferred candidate loses. How will you personally think, act, and feel? Now imagine that your preferred candidate wins. How would that change your thoughts, actions, and feelings?
And even if you don’t have a preferred candidate, it’s likely that you will be surrounded by people who do. Voter enthusiasm is especially high this year, according to Gallop.
The workplace issue is this: political affiliation and loyalty arouse deep emotions. They are likely to surface at work. There will be winners and losers and raw emotions abounding. Dismissive, argumentative remarks about politics—even if not technically illegal in the workplace—can trigger the same resentments, animosity and lasting antagonisms as illegal remarks about race or gender, for example. This particular moment will only enhance that risk—and reason, caution and self control are especially vital now in terms of what we say, do, write and communicate.
Yes, this is a free country and people are entitled to their opinions. But in the workplace, considerations of teamwork, collaboration, and a peaceful work environment must play a part in shaping our behavior. Someone who supports the ultimate winner may be tempted to brag about the victory or insult that losing candidate. But what’s the point? It won’t change anything, and will likely only alienate that person to other employees.
No matter where any of us fall on the political spectrum, the question when we start our jobs in person or virtually tomorrow is how can we make sure that how we work together is not damaged by our political differences and the heightened emotions of this moment?
First, each and everyone of us must commit to focusing on what we most deeply share at work: a commitment to mission and results in terms of the organization, our teams and ourselves. Organizational values of respect, teamwork, and inclusion are there because they reflect core operational beliefs and they help the organization achieve maximum productivity, safety, and quality. We have a responsibility to our organization as citizens of its community to base our actions in the workplace on those values.
Second, each of us must commit to do more listening than talking. I’m sure you want your own thoughts and ideas to be understood and taken seriously. So does everyone else in the workplace. No one will be satisfied if you do all the talking and don’t listen to others. The phrase I like to use is that if we are not willing to listen, then we have nothing to say. There is a time and place for debating and discussion of political issues, and on the job, days after a highly charged, stressful election are not it.
Lastly, now more than ever is a time when leaders need to remind employees of what they share and use those overlapping interests to bring us together. Team members should be openly striving for that same goal of unity.
This election has polarized the nation and generated feelings that will not quickly dissipate after today. As people come to work tomorrow, some will be deeply enthused about the results, some will be deeply disappointed—and just about everyone will be anxious about the state of our economy, and Covid-19.
So take a moment to envision different outcomes from today’s election. And before the reality of victory or defeat engulfs you, decide how you’re going to act tomorrow when you return to the workplace. How can you not add to the stress of the moment? How can you actively help to maintain a productive, respectful workplace? What other avenues—outside of work—can you use to share your reactions to the election result?
Collectively, employees at all levels do their best when they work to build respectful and professional bonds with colleagues. If we each do our part to maintain those ties—especially on days as challenging as November 4th and beyond—that will demonstrate our belief that at work we’re all on the same side. And that’s how all of us can work together to deliver winning results.