I fear it might get worse. Emotions are raw and fuses are short. As leaders we need to keep this powder keg from exploding.
So, what is the best way to navigate politics in an already impassioned workplace? I’ve found that communicating clear expectations and giving people grace is the best formula for success.
We need to be clear about what is OK, and what is not, in our organizations. We don’t want anyone to feel isolated or uncomfortable by polarizing political views. And we don’t want productivity to plummet if the team is debating politics, or worse, not speaking to one another. Some might say it isn’t practical to ban all mention of politics in the office, but I think setting clear boundaries is not only advisable, but appropriate.
A statement like this may help: “I respectfully ask that we leave politics at home. As with the rest of the U.S.A., our team may have differing opinions regarding the upcoming heated election. In an effort to continue to be productive co-workers, let’s restrict all political discussions, emails, paraphernalia, campaign clothing, etc. from our time working together or with our clients. If someone brings up the topic – we literally say – at XYZ company, we’ve decided it’s best to leave politics at home... and then smile.”
Despite our best efforts to alleviate strain, and set boundaries, our employees may still be on edge more than ever this week and potentially in the weeks that follow. Recognize they are carrying a lot of weight on their shoulders and cut them a little slack. We can remind them of the resources available such as mental health hotlines, wellness programs, coaches and EAP, and encourage them to take advantage of vacation or sick days.
I’m going to explicitly give folks permission to fully disconnect for a day or two if they need it and use their time off for a stress relief day. I’ll respect their privacy and allow them the time to be upset, or grieve, without the pressure to answer phone calls and “chase emails.” Setting boundaries and giving guidance.
Regardless of how this week unfolds, reinforcing a culture of respect and trust is critical for everyone. I know that we, as leaders, have strong views and may experience anger and grief following the election.
Please give yourself grace. Allow yourself to feel and work through whatever emotions may come up in your own space and time. Model good behavior for others and if you can’t, then give yourself a stress relief day to turn off and unplug. Good luck!