Ever since the pandemic arrived in the U.S., the American public has faced a succession of challenges: High unemployment. Social unrest. The 2020 election season.

Politics have always been an emotionally charged issue. According to this 2016 study by the American Psychological Association, political discussions in the workplace resulted in:

  • 28% of younger workers (ages 18-34) feeling stressed
  • 23% of all workers feeling more isolated
  • 25% experiencing increased hostility in the workplace
  • 27% experiencing at least one negative outcome

Political discussions can also impact work performance. Compared to their older colleagues, younger workers were more likely to report that political discussions at work resulted in the following:

  • Difficulty focusing on work
  • Producing lower-quality work
  • Being less productive overall

Fast forward to 2020: It’s as divisive as it gets. From now until November 3rd, and possibly afterward, workplaces will need to address a range of issues. Whether your organization is virtual or physical, here are a few recommendations:

  • Everyone should model the behavior they hope to receive. If you want to be treated with respect, dignity and civility, be a role model for these behaviors
  • Leadership should acknowledge the difficulties surrounding the election with a message that emphasizes the organization’s common goals and expectations regarding core personal behaviors, especially respect.
  • Be consistent. Have HR provide guidance to your managers/supervisors on workplace behavior surrounding the election.
  • Use empathy. Recognize everyone’s stress and respond by reiterating the message from leadership.

What should you do if the election is not decided on November 3rd?

  • Again, model the behavior you hope to see and receive.
  • Don’t be a commentator on the news cycle. Everyone will be following their own news feeds and there will be conflicting information everywhere.
  • Practice good communication. Recognize that uncertainty is difficult and show empathy. Be an active listener and respond to the needs of the workforce.

Remind everyone of company policies on harassment and bullying, and that political differences should not disrupt the workplace.

Finally, remember the words of George Carlin: “If you don’t vote, you lose the right to complain.”