Sure, all any of us want to talk, write, or rant about these days is the volatile U.S. Presidential election. We all have our opinions and want to be heard, some of us more than others.
Considering your business, how does this constant focus on politics affect your customers, employee morale, productivity, and ultimately, profit?
I am hearing surprising stories of increased fear, anger, and angst from my clients, referring to a new wave of poor behavior in their workplace, which could have long-term adverse impacts.
Statements as: “He’s not the leader I thought he was. All he focuses on in our one-on-ones these days is his candidate. If I don’t agree with him, he has little time for me.” “Enough with the political chatter. Doesn’t anyone care about getting the actual work done? I’m on deadline.” “I never realized how narrow-minded my colleague is. I’m beginning to lose respect for her.”
According to a study Politics in the Workplace: 2016 Election Season conducted by American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence, this year’s extraordinary presidential campaign is taking a toll on American workers, some of whom report feeling stressed, argumentative, and less productive because of political discussions on the job.
“More than one in four employees reported feeling stressed out because of political discussions at work, and more than twice as many men as women said political talk is making them less productive.”
Negative consequences from having political discussions at work, reported by nearly 1,000 survey participants, included:
• Feeling higher tension and stress at work (17 percent)
• Feeling more cynical and negative at work (15 percent)
• Being less productive (13 percent)
• Having difficulty getting work done (ten percent)
• Producing lower-quality work (ten percent)
Other negative repercussions from political talk at work included:
• Feeling more isolated from their colleagues
• Having a more negative view of bosses and colleagues
• Avoiding key colleagues due to their political views
• Experiencing increased workplace hostility
No matter how this election turns out, these negative consequences will not vanish overnight. In fact, they will likely become more severe.
What can you do now, today, as a leader at any level in your organization to prevent long-term damage? Here are my suggestions.
Strengthen your culture. If your culture is not defined, or if you’ve not discussed it with your team lately, this is a superb time to do so. What five to eight words best describe your culture? Examples could range from Zappos’ ‘fun and weird,’ to caring, transparent, adventurous, bold, decisive, making a difference, collaboration, alive, empathetic, creative, caring, innovative, talented, driven, involved, and more.
Take the emphasis off of what is causing your employees – and likely your customer’s — stress: politics. Elevate the focus to what you, your business, and team are truly all about.
Shine a light. Bring this stressor to light for all involved. Decide whether you want to make an executive decision or conduct a team meeting to collectively determine what place, if any, political discussions have in your work environment.
Where do these discussions belong: in main areas where customers are involved or can overhear; in employee only areas; completely away from the office? What political signage is welcome or acceptable?
Most importantly, how can you retain a level of respect and curiosity rather than argument and an environment of “I’m right; you’re wrong” if these discussions are allowed to continue?
Be the leader. Unpredictable times of stress and fear show your true colors as a leader. Are you going to ignore this article and continue to boldly convey your political views irrespective of who may be offended by them?
Or are you going to focus on your people and business at hand, setting an example? If you or your team decides that political discussions are no longer welcome, there are plenty of opportunities outside of the workplace for your views to be heard and respected.
I am not telling you to remove all political discussions in your workplace, simply to talk about it and be aware of potential consequences.
It may be okay to have political discussions at your work with a mutual understanding that everyone has the right to be heard and respected for others opinions.
Unlike fun banter as to whether the Yankees or Red Sox are best, the ramifications from political discussions don’t dissolve after the next game is won. Relationships can be permanently altered.
Be the leader that your team deserves. Know what you want to create in your business and to honor your employees and customers.
Master Executive and Leadership Coach Ann Golden Eglé, MCC, has steered highly-successful individuals to greater results since 1998. President of Golden Visions & Associates, LLC, Ann can be reached at 541-385-8887 or subscribe to her newsletter at www.GVAsuccess.com