According to current research of the American Psychological Association, 52% of U.S. adults say that the presidential election was a “very” or “significant” source of stress. If your organization is reflective of the election results – it’s probable that 50 – 70% of your staff was quite or very stressed during the election. With 2 ½ months till inauguration, the intense focus on politics will continue, and with even more focus for the first six months of a new Presidency indicates that post-election blues aren’t likely to dissipate anytime soon.
Psychologists have suggested ways to deal with our children, but as leaders, there is also a strong need to help your staff assimilate and process this election – and what it means to each of them. If you have a diverse culture, there can be a strong fear amongst the minority faction that their loved ones might be deported, or that family members may not be able to join – and many other concerns and fears which have nothing to do with you or your organization.
“So why should we address this” you may ask. Your valued employees need support and reassurance that life will go on, that there is no imminent threat of deportation, and that no wall is going to be built soon, if ever, but many folks don’t trust that or just can’t process it.
“Election Stress Disorder” was coined by Steven Stosny, a therapist in Urban Washington. “Our politics appeal to the Toddler Brain, which is self-obsessed, impulsive, intolerant, blaming, oversimplifying, thinking in terms of “mine!” and “no!” We invoke the Adult Brain by asking how we can improve the situation [rather than whom to blame it on], trying to see other perspectives, appreciating complexity, getting in touch with deeper, more humane values, recognizing that we can’t feel valuable while devaluing someone else. If feelings are dominant, focus on how you would like to feel.”
What behaviors might you see in the workplace that indicates this post-election anxiety:
Irritability and resentment – not only towards the election, but towards every-day situations
Tendency to blame others, more arguments and conflict
Missing details – lost orders, incomplete orders
Sub-standard custom service, which can be very detrimental to a service organization
Oversimplification of perspectives, diminishing of other points of view
Difficulty in concentration – loss of productivity
Low grade anger activates muscle groups – headaches, migraines, stomach aches
As you can see, these behaviors reduce productivity and can have detrimental effect on business.
What leaders can do to help employees overcome these behaviors:
• Leaders should lead by example – exhibit positive emotions by smiling, courteous and warm interactions with employees. Let them vent for a short time, and let them know they are heard.
• Do something for someone else – go the extra mile where it wasn’t expected. This raises self-value. Encourage employees to do the same – “Pay it forward” campaign
• Encourage or reward employees for volunteerism – there has been a 25% drop in volunteerism since the presidential campaign began
• Suggest that political conversations be reserved for “off hours” and out of the office. (this can prevent any bullying or gloating over the election results)
• Reduce exposure to newscasts – this election has been the first with such vitriol 24/7 – and there is no time for recovery from negative news.
• Reduce or eliminate newscasts in the car – which have resulted in aggressive driving and speeding
• Employees venting – let them vent for a bit (this reduces the negative emotion) – but then gently turn the focus to something positive they have done, or some other supportive interactions to let the employee know that you care about them.
In all – remember that we are not done with the negative effects of this election cycle. We have 2 ½ months till inauguration where there is sure to be intense coverage of just about everything. The first six months of the new presidency will surely keep the media frenzy to a fever pitch. Helping your employees to control the negative effects and keep your business running more smoothly.