According to smithsonianmagazine.com the Presidential Election of 1876 was one of the “ugliest most contentious Presidential campaigns ever” with the Republican candidate calling his Democratic opponent out as “a briber a thief [and] a drunken syphilitic.” I think at this point, most American’s would agree, the Presidential Election of 2016 is running a very close second.
With about a week to go before Election Day tensions are high everywhere including the workplace. In fact, a recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of the American Psychological Association found that regardless of political affiliation, upwards of 55% of Americans are admitting that the upcoming election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress. The survey also found that 1 out of 4 American workers believes politically affiliated talk has negatively impacted them in the workplace with Millennials in particular finding it difficult to maintain productivity and lower stress levels.
Once considered a taboo topic for workplace conversation, politics has taken an unprecedented leap to the fore – mirroring the tenor of our current electoral campaigns. Politics, a subject with so many strong and differing opinions, is a tricky conversational topic to navigate in any setting but it becomes particularly difficult in the work environment.
With just five days and counting consider these tips when it comes to navigating this arguably controversial subject matter.
- Free Speech Matters…so does your 501(c)(3) status. A 501(c)(3) organization is defined as one “which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” Click here to see an IRS reminder concerning its Charities and Churches Political Activity ban.
- To Ban or Not To Ban…it’s a fine line. While specific federal and CA state laws protect employees in their concerted activities, employers still need to remain mindful of other federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on protected categories. For example, politically charged remarks (made in person or via an electronic medium) could be misconstrued or wrongly attributed to how supervisory personnel view particular employees leading to claims of discriminatory or harassing conduct based on protected characteristics.
- Consistency in decision making is key…so is nonpartisanship. No matter what decisions you make as the election clock ticks down be sure you are acting consistently as to all employees and in a manner that cannot be construed as politically motivated or biased.
- Dial back the media exposure…go old school. Feeling particularly stressed? Consider limiting your media exposure to one or two trusted sources and let the others go until Election Day is over. Better yet, unplug your social-self and go old school for a few days. Get all the political news fit to print through a national or local newspaper: easy to read, digest, and recycle. Can’t say that about our 24/7 electronic media news outlets.
- Set Boundaries…don’t initiate, don’t participate. During these last few election days set boundaries with family, friends, and co-workers and then judiciously guard your side of the line. Disengage from political conversations at work and in your personal life. For the next week or so try politely excusing yourself from politically charged conversations, putting in the earbuds, or turning the white noise up to eleven.
- Get Active…politically or physically. Physical activity or acting in a motivational sense is a great way to deal with stress. So, get active! Volunteer your time between now and voting day to the election process (monitoring voting sites or providing rides to your local polling place) or add a few extra workouts or yoga sessions to your normal routine – either avenue will help you keep and maintain your election perspective.
“The most powerful thing we own is our vote.” Bev Perdue