Every presidential election cycle brings with it the challenge of navigating several tense “morning after” conversations and situations–the morning after a heated debate, the morning after a scandal, the morning after the election, and even the morning after the inauguration. The 2016 campaign season was no different except that it unfolded like a hit reality TV show and left much of the country in a tailspin. At the time, all we knew for sure was that the 2016 presidential election was going to be an unprecedented, history-making event—our nation would either elect the first female leader of the free world or a businessman-turned-reality-TV-star with zero political, military, or public service experience. Following the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States approaches, many Americans are looking toward the weekend with anxiety and the upcoming workweek with dread.
If President Barack Obama’s farewell address was a reminder of the distress and despair many citizens are coping with, and let’s be real, normal coping mechanisms just aren’t working for most of us. A recent episode of the hit ABC show Black’ish, tackled the growing anxiety Americans, especially minorities, are experiencing in the face of Trump’s America, particularly in corporate America. It isn’t simply a leader with varying views but one that has openly set the standard for division, misogyny, racism, and intolerance. Citizens are already beginning to see and feel how the rhetoric of the campaign will affect our lives, careers, and pockets.
According to the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence survey, more than 1 in 4 employees have been negatively affected by workplace conversations related to the Clinton-Trump race and that divisions exist between generations and genders in the workplace. For younger workers, (defined by the survey as those under age 34), some 28% reported that political discussions at work left them feeling stressed; 1 in 4 millennials also shared that political debates led to workplace hostility. Nearly half of all respondents (47%) indicated that people are more likely to discuss politics in the workplace this election season than in the past. And 1 in 5 survey participants reported avoiding some co-workers because of their political views, while more than one-quarter (27%) reported at least one negative outcome as a result of political discussions at work this election season.
Though many of us would like to ctrl+alt+delete the presidential inauguration, the reality is that IT. IS. HAPPENING. Here are a few tips to help you cope in the workplace post-inauguration.
- Avoid political debate at work. Michelle Obama said it best: “When they go low, we go high.”
- Think long term. In four years, the pendulum could swing in the other direction, so it’s important to keep the design of democracy in mind. President Barack Obama said it best in his farewell address, “Democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity—the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.”
- Understand your rights in the workplace. Speak up about racism and sexism. If someone isn’t being respectful, report their behavior. Your employer is required by law to address disrespectful and distracting discussions.
- Build a protective network. Know your audience. Avoid being dragged into political conversations and escorted out of the building by surrounding yourself with a “work crew.” These are the colleagues you can depend on for emotional support and a sanity check.
- Take a Mental Health Day. Per Evelyn from the Internets, sometimes you just have to call out black. Create the time and space between you and your coworkers to get the mental rest you need to reboot your emotional intelligence and make sound decisions.
Toni is the CEO & founder of The Corporate Tea, an online resource that provides unfiltered advice to help professionals navigate their careers. Toni is also a career strategist & HR blogger with over a decade of experience in corporate America. For more insights and advice, follow her @thecorporatetea