How to Talk About the Election at Work
HR professionals share their tips for navigating this tricky time.
These days, thinking about the upcoming election feels inescapable. November 3rd stars in my stress dreams and graces my T-shirts. And I think about it during work, too. But does that mean it’s okay to strike up a conversation about it with my co-workers? I mean, it’s kind of impossible not to…
This year’s election is unusual in that it’s set against the backdrop of a global pandemic and a national reckoning over systemic racism in our country. And both individuals and the companies they work for have had to address those things head on. “This long-overdue moment, after the murder of George Floyd, is unlike anything we have ever seen in terms of resetting expectations around equity and inclusion in workplaces,” says Kia Roberts, Principal and Founder of Triangle Investigations. Indeed, M.M.LaFleur, like many other companies, has spent the past few months developing an updated plan to fight racism in the workplace, and our work is far from done.
“Let’s just say it straight,” says Roberts, “For many employees, especially BIPOC and LGBTQ+ employees, President Trump, the Trump brand, and the Republican Party have become completely synonymous with racism, bigotry, hatred, and violence. I cannot overstate how many inquiries/investigations we currently have due to employees complaining of co-workers publicly stating their support for President Trump and his policies.”
There are many wrong ways to talk about politics at work—but what is the best way to have a professional conversation about the upcoming election? I tapped a few HR professionals to weigh in.
Bring the Focus Back to Work
At the end of the day, it’s in your best interest to make sure election-related conversations don’t get in the way of your (or your team’s) work performance. “The workplace requires individuals to set aside their differences and focus on the job at hand,” says Laura Handrick, an HR & Business Consulting Agency Owner and writer for Choosing Therapy. “We’ve all seen how political conversations devolve into name-calling and insults over social media. It’s crucial to avoid that kind of tension in the workplace. My recommendation as an HR professional is to train managers and supervisors to nip such commentary in the bud, regardless of their own beliefs, by saying something like, ‘Let’s keep our focus on the (customer/client/product) and maintain a professional, inclusive work environment by keeping political views to ourselves.’”
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Take Care of Your Mental Health
If the looming election is putting a strain on your mental health, you’re not alone—but that doesn’t mean the office (virtual or otherwise) is the place to seek solace. “The horrific landscape of 2020—the deadly pandemic, the racial uprisings, the fragile economy—have combined to make a very difficult year for Americans generally,” says Roberts. “Many employees are understandably carrying this strain and stress into their workplace. We are advising our clients to invest in mental health resources for their employees who have voiced stress about the election or other outside factors.” Handrick adds: “If you’re feeling stressed about the election, it’s best to talk to friends and family outside of work, schedule a therapy appointment, or talk to your EAP counselor. Your employer likely provides you with resources to assist with work and home stressors. Stress from the upcoming election is no different than stress you may feel due to your dating, housing, or health. It’s something you need to seek help for outside of the workplace.”
Focus on Civic Engagement
Regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on, it’s important to do your civic duty and vote. This year, M.M.LaFleur is offering its employees a paid day off to work on voting-related projects—whether that means getting voters registered, volunteering at the polls, or anything else that will help others show up this year. Working toward a common goal brings people together, and it just might spark some productive dialogue among co-workers.