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Don’t Let Election Passions Roil Your Workplace

 
WORK VS. LIFE

After Election Day, more than 100 million Americans will physically or virtually report to their jobs. Those workplaces are likely to be the first outlet for pent-up emotions at a time of toxic political polarization.

More than 25% of voters, according to, are already convinced that one presidential candidate or the other is “very likely” to cheat to win, and 64% think that it is “probable” that Russia will interfere with the electoral process.

Even in the best-case scenario, in which the race is clearly decided on election night, lingering bitterness and resentments will likely spill into the workplace. But if, as many experts predict, the counting of mail-in ballots continues well beyond Nov. 3, companies will face the potential of a roiled workplace for weeks and even months. What can managers and leaders do to help employees navigate the challenges of a protracted postelection conflict?

Here are seven recommendations:

1. DO NOT REMAIN SILENT: Communicate. The election and its aftermath will be the elephant in the room. They will need to be addressed.

2. ACKNOWLEDGE THE DIFFICULTY: The most effective initiatives on civil discourse begin with an admission that conversations may be difficult. Acknowledge that people feel passionately about political issues, and that it can sometimes be hard to rein in that passion or for someone to hear contrasting views.

3. LISTEN ACTIVELY: Each person has a responsibility to be an active listener and respectful of others. Remind people to speak from their own experiences and not to speak for others or for an entire group.

4. MODEL DESIRED BEHAVIOR: Remember that in times of stress employees carefully watch the words and actions of leaders. Even the casual banter that often precedes in-person or virtual meetings will be scrutinized. Leaders finding themselves in passionate discussions should speak briefly, resist the desire to interrupt, share the conversation time equitably and emphasize areas of common ground.

5. SHOW LEADERSHIP THROUGH EMPATHY: Showcase the softer skills of leadership. Empathize with the challenge we all may face to keep our cool as postelection conflict escalates to its climax.

6. DON’T BE THE OFFICE PUNDIT: Holding forth at work with your own predictions and analysis, tempting as the daily drama may make it, will lead others to make inferences about you that may be unhelpful and raise, rather than lower, the political temperature. Such tendencies should be minimized by leaders at all levels.

7. REITERATE CORE VALUES: Especially if there is any kind of civil unrest, it may be helpful to reiterate company policies regarding harassment and bullying, and to remind people of the importance of not letting political differences poison working relationships.

The events of 2020, from the pandemic to the explosion of outrage in response to racial injustice, make clear that business leaders must now step up to help bridge the divide. Like all crises, this anxious moment in our national life presents not only danger but also opportunities for growth and a change in direction.

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