After the Election, a Tough Job for Managers: Keep Politics From Derailing Work
If you’ve been on social media lately, you know that emotions are running unusually high right now: some people are very, very happy, while others are having one of the toughest weeks of their lives.
But, you’re a manager, which means that your job is to get your team to pull together, regardless of how they feel about the election results. This will require more than just reminding people not to talk about politics at work. You’ll also have to figure out a way to heal the breach between the members of your team — at least well enough so that they can work together.
Talking about politics at work is always a mistake, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore the tension in the room.
When it comes to having difficult conversations at work “[w]e don’t do the calculations accurately,” Sheila Heen tells Success. Heen is the co-author of Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. “We know the risks of raising a difficult topic, but we ignore the bigger risks of avoiding a conversation.”
The key is to not to get caught up in talking about the election, but to address the tension that may have arisen in its wake, and make sure that every team member feels like he or she is part of the group.
Elliot Begoun at SmartBrief says that managers should concentrate on encouraging two things right now: empathy and sameness. Regarding empathy, he writes:
Call out the elephant in the room. Let the organization know that you recognize there is likely an underlying tension that exists as a result of this election and that it’s OK. Help people to understand that while one person may be jubilant, the person standing right beside them may be in utter despair.
Encourage people, through your own actions and words, to try to see all that has transpired from behind the other’s eyes. Remind them that their job is not to make people see it their way, but rather, to simply accept that others may see and feel things differently.
Make Sure Your Door Is Truly Open
And now comes the toughest part of the process: unless you’re a completely apolitical person, you probably have an opinion about the election’s outcome. Being a leader in a time of divisiveness means putting that aside and focusing on creating a productive and safe environment.
That might mean making sure your mostly liberal team doesn’t pile on the company’s one avid Trump supporter, or ensuring that everyone understands that bullying will not be tolerated. Now’s a good time to familiarize yourself with your company’s Employee Assistance Program, so that you’ll be able to connect your colleagues with resources if they need help. HR is your friend, here.
The bottom line is that your team needs to feel heard, safe, and entitled to their opinion, so long as it doesn’t become a topic of discussion at work — but most of all, they need to feel like they’re on the same side. That will be a lot easier if your team understands that you have their back, no matter what.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you had trouble keeping politics out of the office since the election? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.