The 2020 national election may be over, but the post-election loss and aftermath can still be rattling some. Here’s some ideas on how to diffuse tension around politics.
2020 has been one wild ride. Even as the year comes to a close, the events of this year will linger well into 2021 — especially those related to the contentious election that has finally been unequivocally decided by the Electoral College. Just because it has been concluded, though, doesn’t mean that the contention surrounding it will subside.
Even as Biden takes office, the political divides that have characterized the country recently will linger on and those feelings can be hard to put aside, even at work.
In addition, if you have employees in Georgia, tensions there may be still running high, especially as those counties are still being bombarded with political ads. This could continue further into the New Year than just January.
Whether remote or in-person, a respectful and civil workplace is key to not only productivity, but employee mental health and well-being. It might seem equivalent to moving mountains but keeping things civil at work is something small business leaders can manage. Of course, everything isn’t entirely under your control, but there are a few things you can do to promote civility — and a few ways to consider handling things if they do get out of hand, which you can absolutely control.
Whether remote or in-person, a respectful and civil workplace is key to not only productivity, but employee mental health and well-being
Consider putting out a workplace message companywide
Sometimes a few words can go a long way. These are unprecedented times in many ways. Figuring out how to navigate this level of polarization in the context of politics at work is probably something your employees are already struggling with and chances are clear expectations haven’t been set yet since this is relatively new for all of us.
Consider a missive from the CEO, founder, or other leader that encourages people to keep things civil as well as sets the tone for what’s expected in terms of behaviors. You can express that you hope that everyone will choose to take the high road should they find themselves in a charged situation. This is also a great time to reiterate any company values that are pertinent to the situation. If you have any resources (think mental health benefits like access to therapy or maybe just a mindfulness app subscription) that your employees might find useful as they face these lingering challenges, it doesn’t hurt to point those out.
Use politics as an opportunity to invest in training
Perhaps you’ve been meaning to set up diversity and inclusion training for years and just haven’t gotten around to it. Maybe you’ve been promoting people but wish that they had more concrete ways to learn leadership skills, but you’ve been swamped because… 2020. No matter the reason, you can’t really go wrong by investing in more soft skills training for your workforce.
Whether you want to bring in professionals to run a formal training or you want to do lunch and learns on the various components of effective interpersonal skills (from communication, collaboration, and conflict management to emotional intelligence) the post-election atmosphere is an opportunity to make the importance of diversity tangible and immediately relevant when it comes to diversity of beliefs. Make the most of how ready your employees are to care about the content and schedule those training sessions you’ve been meaning to get to for a while anyway.
The post-election atmosphere is an opportunity to make the importance of diversity tangible and immediately relevant when it comes to diversity of beliefs.
Remind managers to lead by example
Managers aren’t just responsible for their team’s output, they’re responsible for their team’s well-being as well and ensuring a harmonious team environment is part of that. Remind those in leadership roles at your small business that it’s their job to lead by example.
If they’re relatively new to management or are just nervous about the potentially uncomfortable situation, the best thing you can do to support them is to make sure they have the resources they need. If they aren’t sure what to say, they can just default to reiterating the talking points you’ve hopefully already shared with the company (see above).
Embrace Leadership Training
Maybe you can’t quite manage company-wide training, but leadership training is more do-able? Then focus on increasing your managers’ soft skills so that they’re more equipped to deal with the potentially tense situations their subordinates might find themselves in — a great time to focus on conflict resolution as well!
Use the challenge of post-election workplace civility as an opportunity to create skills that will benefit your company long after the memory of this year fades.