Some co-workers will be elated. Others will be distraught. Still others will be suffering from protracted election stress.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to know that tensions and tempers may run high on Wednesday.
In workplaces that serve as petri dishes for society at large, it’s no secret – partly due to opinions expressed on social media – that fellow employees have wildly different takes on the political scene. So how to keep a relative peace?
This is one time when it might be better to simply not talk about it. The safest move for individuals is to avoid conversations with those who have radically different reactions to the results.
If that’s not possible, an alternative is to try to nip an argument in the bud: “Well, we can agree we disagree about the election, but I hope it doesn’t interfere with our ability to work together.”
A management professor at the University of Arkansas who has researched workplace behaviors has found that one impolitic comment can serve as tinder in volatile atmospheres.
“Basically, incivility begets incivility,” said Chris Rosen, whose report was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. “And our findings verify that these contagion effects occur within very short, even daily, cycles.”
Extending an olive branch – with no gloating – might make it easier to sit next to someone who is seething.
This has been an extraordinarily divisive election season, and differences won’t be resolved because the polls closed. Relationships may not mellow easily.
In workplaces as a whole, the American Psychological Association suggests that election-related stress can be eased by turning off the office televisions, or at least changing them from news channels.
Another idea is to create a politics-free zone in the workplace. Designate the break room as a place of respite. Employers can’t ban political discussion, but it’s fine to declare politics off limits in at least one place in the building.
Psychologists also suggest that November is a great time to direct employees’ attention to volunteering and projects that gather food, toys or clothing for needy people in advance of Thanksgiving. It’s a well-known truism that reaching out to help others dilutes one’s own angst.
Outside of organized activities, individuals can make conscious decisions to redirect emotion and energy. Take a walk instead of eating lunch at your desk. Play a mindless game on your mobile phone. Treat yourself to something special, be it an ice cream cone or a bigger splurge. Read a book, light fiction, nothing serious.
The best course is to focus on the job at hand and, if you feel uncomfortably confronted, plead for time and space before you’re ready to talk about the election.
And, at the risk of wearing rose-colored glasses, you might try saying something like, “Democracy is messy … but what’s the alternative?”