October 29, 2020
As we careen on the toboggan ride toward Election Day, I’ve had a few clients ask me about handling employee communications around election results. Or, as the case may be, not having election results for a while as the combatants continue the battle into the courts.
What if employees at work decide to act out? Marching in protest over a contested election? Heated arguments among staff or even fistfights if things get really out of control? Is there anything we can do to head off such situations while we still have time before the final vote?
Politics are already a tricky issue at work. Mom always said there’s a few things we don’t talk about in public and this is one of them. But with the vitriol surrounding the presidential election, it’s not hard to imagine sour grapes from the losing side and boastful claims of decisive victory from the winner even if determining what “decisive” actually means is elusive.
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The advice I’ve given in places where people are actually in a physical work location is to issue a communication that focuses on safety. Production facilities already have a safety focus as a core part of their daily routines, and this is an opportunity to link appropriate interactions with colleagues to safety. Any kind of distraction can lead to injury in those environments – take a moment at a shift meeting to talk about treating your colleagues and their opinions with respect in the context of keeping people safe.
In office settings, in addition to interpersonal skirmishes that could arise, it’s possible marches could occur in locations near office buildings where protests could turn violent. Talk about how you would take action if protests – especially spontaneous ones – ignited near your offices. How would you communicate with your employees about how they can safely exit the building or potentially shelter in place?
As is always good practice, take some time now to talk about these issues and the potential unexpected outcomes that could occur before they actually happen. Once the ballots are tallied, it may be too late.