There was a good reason that many of us were raised not to discuss politics or religion. These topics are by their very nature divisive. Elections are the most common and yet the worst time to venture into this snake den. It’s a game of winners and losers. Emotions run high and with the political climate being what it is today, the outcome can be nothing short of disastrous. Even writing this article, I am doing a dance to present this information as neutrally as possible. The 2017 election has been particularly divisive.
With family and friends, when things get political you have something deeper that brings you together. If there is an infraction, you can usually move beyond politics and back to the bond you share. In the workplace and business, not so much. We all need to tread lightly!
This article will present some pitfalls to avoid with regard to reacting to this election. It’s an emotional minefield out there. Don’t let your feelings – good or bad- get the best of your career.
You Are Alienating People Without Knowing It
People can make the assumption that everyone thinks like they do. This is especially true if you live or work in an area where the majority of people share your views. Are you a conservative in Alabama or a liberal in California? This advice is for you. When you share the same political opinions with the majority of folks around you, you might feel especially bold in making statements positive or negative about politicians and issues. Sure, it is likely that most people you are speaking with will agree with you. But what you don’t know is that there are people who you may be offending. Thirty-four percent of people in Alabama voted Democrat in the last presidential election. In California the numbers are similar: 33% voted Republican. That’s one in three that thinks differently than you.
If you are in business for yourself, a person whose job it is to attract clients or customers or anyone who works in an organization, your comments can have consequences. If you must discuss politics, do it with people you know are like-minded and avoid voicing your opinions in the public square.
You’re Getting Really Obnoxious or Negative
After an election, regardless of the side you are on, it is so very tempting to continue to gloat if your candidate won or complain if your candidate lost. You feel it’s your duty to “educate” the people around you who aren’t thinking the right way (your way). You might feel pretty bold about your opinions and it’s getting the best of you. Wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat to work? Posting a sign of Donald Trump with shark teeth in your cube? Probably not.
However you feel about the outcome of this election, you need to be sensitive to those around you. Recognize that no matter how strongly you feel, you probably aren’t going to change anyone’s mind. Most importantly, the work place is not the place.
You’re Social Media Presence is Turning People Off (Including Potential Employers)
By nature when emotions are high, people want to connect through either commiserating or celebrating, depending on which side of the fence you are on. Did you know that your social medial profiles are examined by people who can influence your career including potential employers? Your on-line profile is a gauge of your emotional intelligence. Mathematically speaking, posting political comments is alienating about half the population.
If you are going to make political posts, try to avoid extreme, snarky or anything that reads “in your face”. Instead, you may consider sticking with posts that are tasteful and light or ones that show you are working toward making changes in your community in a positive and productive way.
Your Productivity is Suffering
If you are really into politics right now, it can be difficult to stay off of the internet. It’s hard to continue to do your work when you are constantly being baited by news stories regarding something you feel passionate about. The problem is, hours can go by and you have sufficiently educated yourself about what’s happening in the world, meanwhile your work is slipping. Whether you know it or not, many IT Departments within your organization track the amount of time you are surfing. In one organization I worked for, our IT Department published a “Top 100 List” of the employees spending the most time on the internet. Don’t get on this list.
Be honest with yourself with regard to how much of your time is being sucked in by the media. Make a concerted effort to save your political surfing for after work.
You’re Creating Division on Your Team
Working on a team is only successful when people feel brought together by a common goal. When politics enters the picture, this common goal can put people on opposite sides of the fence. We need to find our similarities and focus on where we agree. One employee thought it would be funny to put a derogatory picture against one of the political parties in his presentation to a team I was on. Though many on the team thought it was funny, it alienated several other members who didn’t feel comfortable enough to express it. This one gaff created a permanent rift in the team and bad feelings about this individual which stayed with him throughout his tenure. Because our only bond to many of the people we work with is in our limited interactions with them at work, it’s important to keep things neutral and positive.
Stick with conversations that bring people together. Find unity. Do your activism tastefully outside of work. Don’t let this election ruin your career.
I would love to help you to navigate a difficult situation at work. Contact me at Careerfulness for a free coaching session.
Written by Pam Farone. www.careerfulness.com