- Talent Management
There was nothing normal about the 2016 election, and there will be nothing normal about its aftermath.
While elections always bring out employees’ differences, this election has created divides deeper than perhaps any election in living memory. As a result, today, in the wake of the election’s surprising conclusion, many HR leaders are asking, “How can we move forward? How can we keep the divisiveness of the election out of the workplace?” Some HR leaders are also contemplating the possibility that some employees’ lives may be about to radically change and that these changes will not only have impacts on individuals and in some cases, entire organizations.
To be clear, in most cases, HR leaders should not even consider “refereeing” the political differences of employees. In this case, however, the stakes of the election are arguably too profound to simply ignore. With the pending threat of deportation for some people living in the United States and the pending threat of human rights violations for others, HR leaders must assume that today and over the coming months, stress levels are going to be exceptionally high in many workplaces. A Muslim employee on a work visa may be concerned that his or her visa will be revoked. An LGBT employee may be concerned that it will become increasingly acceptable for their employer to legally discriminate against them on the basis of their sexuality and/or gender, at least in some states. Other employees may be concerned about the status of undocumented family members and friends. These are all legitimate concerns. But how and to what extent can HR executives respond?
Although our investigation could not find any workplaces that have publicly announced how they intend to respond to the election (and to employees’ reactions and concerns), by midday, many U.S. colleges and universities had already sent out official responses to their students and faculty and set up “post-election” events. At The New School, a left-leaning university located in Greenwich Village in New York City, administrators met early in the day and by mid morning, they had organized a “debriefing” for students and sent out a list of available counseling staff. The intention was twofold: to provide its mostly Democrat-voting student body with a place to express their feelings about the election results and to provide students who may be directly impacted (including undocumented students) with one-on-one counseling. Other universities, including Wellesley (Ms. Clinton’s alma mater), had already spontaneously launched its crisis response by late Tuesday night when its large-scale victory party fell apart.
Could such strategies also work in the workplace? Tina Mulder oversees a wellness program at a midsize insurance firm in Manhattan: “My thinking is that we want to keep talk of the election out of the workplace. We want our employees to return to their jobs and to be able to focus. The debriefing idea, while great for a college or pedagogical setting, doesn’t really belong in the workplace, but I do think that counseling and broader wellness-focused activities are important.” Mulder added, “I’ve been working with my team to offer additional yoga and medication classes over the coming weeks. This may seem like a band aid solution, but yes, I do feel like we need to respond and this is a start. We have a lot of women and minorities in the office who are very upset today. Of course, there will be other issues as we move forward.”
While there’s no one correct response and the actual impacts of the election are yet to be seen, the following are three priorities that all HR executives should consider as we move into this post-election period: