More than half (54%) of 1,000 U.S. employees surveyed earlier this year said their work performance would suffer if their favored candidate lost the election, the Society For Human Resource Management reports. That survey from Reflective also found that 29% of employees felt their current office politics would make it hard for them to report to work the day after the election.
"Even more concerning long term, most Millennials [57%] are somewhat or very concerned that disagreeing with the political views of their bosses or co-workers could negatively bias their performance review," said Rachel Ernst, Reflektive's Chief Human Resource Officer.
Kelli Kombat, who heads global HR at the International Trademark Association, said some companies had started preparing their workers for a post-election world months earlier. "We were having [virtual] town hall meetings every two weeks to remind employees about our policy about Election Day and how to be respectful of others," Kombat said.
Ernst suggests that HR and employers take the time to listen to their employees, embrace empathy and ensure workers have access to mental health resources. Employers should avoid putting forth a political agenda and focus on showing that they value how their employees feel, said Lindsay Lagreid, senior advisor of the Limeade Institute.
"Having the CEO or another well-known leader post a video that acknowledges the situation and encourages them to take care of themselves is helpful," Lagreid said. "Letting leaders know it's OK to talk about the emotional impact of the election and encouraging managers to check in with employees and take the time to ask, 'How are you doing, really?' is important."
But the challenges that employers and HR leaders will face are likely to extend through and beyond Inauguration Day on January 20. A recent SHRM survey of employees and HR professionals found that 44% of HR professionals reported a more contentious political environment at work this year versus 2016 when 26% said political volatility had gone up that year compared with earlier elections.
The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report found that 72% of workers said they wanted their employer to be ready with a response should the election outcome be unresolved or contested. As far as what that response should be, 52% said they want their employer to call for a calm and fair process, while the same percentage want employers to create a safe workplace. Nearly 25% want their employers to publicly address who they think should be the winner.
The same Edelman survey found that 64% of employees want to hear from their employers weekly or more often, while 30% said they'd rather not hear anything.
Asher Raphael, CEO of Pennsylvania-based home improvement company, Power Home Remodeling, said “the workplace is actually the perfect place to have these conversations,” Axios reports. "But if you haven’t developed a culture in which people have a deep sense of belonging and care for one another, it’s hard to have a productive discussion about politics,” Raphael noted.
Where companies could at one time discourage any talk of politics at work and remind workers that their focus is making money, “you can’t get away with that anymore,” said Brian Kropp, chief of research in the HR practice at global research firm Gartner. So reports the Chicago Tribune. “By default you’ll have about 40% of employees upset about the election outcome, regardless of who wins,” he noted.
This year’s election highlights how politics “has come to define many of the most important aspects of our moral identify,” said Eli Finkel, a psychology professor at Northwestern University. “Losing an election can mean much more than a temporary loss in the marketplace of political ideas,” Finkel said. “It can provoke existential concerns about the future of our nation.”