After election day, more than 100 million Americans will physically or virtually report to their jobs, one of the few remaining areas where residents routinely engage with others who come from varied backgrounds and hold different viewpoints.
Even in the best-case situation, in which the race is clearly decided on election night, sticking around bitterness and resentments will likely spill into the workplace.
What can they do? A new report by the Dialogue Project that is based on a year-long research effort provides guidance on how to help staff members engage in efficient discourse and provides disturbing data about how difficult it can be.
The Dialogue Job was launched in September 2019 by a coalition of corporations, academic organizations, and think tanks that included Google, Bristol Myers Squibb, Southwest Airlines, and the University of Southern California. The job’s function: to explore how business leaders can contribute to improve civil discourse and decrease polarization in our society.
A 5,000- person global survey executed in July 2020 for the Dialogue Task by Early morning Consult shows how challenging it is for individuals worldwide to talk about questionable problems. In the United States, the study found, “3rd rail” issues consist of politics, race relations, and gun control. More than 70%of the 1,000 American participants said it is tough for them to speak about those topics with people who might hold opposing views. Some 82%of Americans surveyed likewise said that individuals should be more respectful in civic conversations. 50%also said “not me” when asked if they ‘d be willing to invest more time in pursuing such engagement. Just 25%of survey respondents stated they had voluntarily gone over hot-button concerns with a person likely to have a different viewpoint.
Americans have their factors for withdrawing from political discussion — from the old admonition that such discussions never fix anything to the troubling reality that one American in six has actually reported being harassed online over a political opinion. As more people withdraw from conversation, the vacuum is filled by those with extreme views, and the doom loop acquires momentum, with a lot more citizens bowing out of the discussion. The temptation to lash out on social networks, frequently anonymously, just contributes to the issue.
If business are to help their workers keep their discussions from going off the rails and preserve a minimum of the minimally necessary degree of consistency in the office, they need to start planning now for what they will state and do in the time adding to November 3, and, depending upon what occurs that night, what they will state and do afterward.
Thankfully, though we might remain in uncharted waters for American politics, we are not entirely without navigational aids. Lessons can be learned from a variety of imaginative, efficient initiatives launched to encourage productive conversation on thorny problems. Much of these methods, which are described in the report, can be embraced whole by other companies or adjusted for home or community use. Here are examples of two of the programs:
The Better Arguments Task is a national civic effort introduced by the Aspen Institute, in combination with Allstate and Facing History and Ourselves, an international education program.
At General Mills, the Brave Discussions series, now in its fifth year, shows that individuals are willing to speak about hard topics if they feel heard and respected. During a Courageous Discussions occasion, General Mills staff members collect to listen to a speaker and then break into tables of 10 people. Each table is appointed an employee-facilitator who is trained to keep the conversation both considerate and on point. The very first Brave Discussion attracted only 30 individuals. Now, the conversations brings in as many as 3,000 staff members and are carried out online. Employees report “bringing home” the methods found out through Courageous Conversations to smaller sized events and even to family suppers.
The Discussion Project’s report describes a range of other initiatives and provides the point of views of organization and not-for-profit leaders on what can be done to enhance the quality and energy of our civil discourse. Taken together, they provide some helpful guidance for this tough political season.
Before Election Day. While there may not suffice time prior to November 3 for a company to launch a full-blown program, there are six things to be done today:
- Think about a message from your CEO (or head of Human being Resources) to all staff members that acknowledges the tough days that may lie ahead and encourages workers to take the high roadway, dedicates the company to a culture of shared regard, and stresses the importance of business worths and a harmonious work environment.
- Have HR provide assistance to your organization’s managers on conversation facilitation. There are numerous tools to assist them do this, including the case studies at the Dialogue Project and the Handbook for Facilitating Difficult Conversations in the Class
- Motivate supervisors throughout your organization to reiterate the CEO’s message by acknowledging the stress and anxiety lots of people feel and recognizing that enthusiasms are running high at this time.
- Discourage unnecessary election pools, political small talk, and so on, however do it in a manner that doesn’t appear to be censorious or taking sides and makes clear that the goal is to prevent hurtful and aggressive language.
- Encourage everybody to vote, although this year, unfortunately, even that might be analyzed as a form of taking sides.
- Design the habits you wish to see in others.
- Do not remain silent– communicate. The election and its consequences will be the elephant in the room. It will require to be resolved.
- Acknowledge the difficulty. The most effective initiatives on civil discourse start with an admission that these discussions may be difficult. Acknowledge that people feel passionately about these issues, and that it can sometimes be hard to check that enthusiasm or for somebody to hear contrasting views that they believe vary not only on policy but on core worths.
- Listen actively. Each person has a duty to be an active listener and respectful of others. It is necessary to remind individuals to speak from their own experiences and not to speak for others or for an entire group.
- Design desired habits. Remember that in times of stress staff members carefully enjoy the words and actions of leaders. Even the casual small talk that often precedes in-person or virtual meetings will be inspected. Leaders finding themselves in passionate discussions ought to speak quickly, resist the desire to interrupt, share the discussion time equitably, and emphasize locations of common ground.
- Program leadership through compassion. The day after the election, and likely, for some days after that, will be a time to display the softer skills of management.
- Withstand the temptation to be the office pundit. Social media and cable television news have turned us all into amateur experts. However holding forth at work with your own predictions and analysis, appealing as the daily drama might make it, will lead others to make reasonings about you that may be unhelpful and raise, rather than lower, the political temperature level. This might be challenging to prevent totally if you remain in an organization that might be substantially affected by the result of the election or by the uncertainty itself. However it should be minimized by leaders at all levels.
- Restate core worths. Depending on how the situation plays out, and specifically if there is any kind of civil unrest, it may also be helpful to reiterate business policies regarding harassment, bullying, and so on, and remind people of the significance of not allowing political differences to become disruptive or toxin working relationships.
In one, the election is chosen definitively on election day and the losing candidate concedes before everyone returns to work.
Even if the very first situation happens, it does not indicate calm will instantly dominate. This has been a particularly divisive election season after a particularly dissentious four years. That will not unexpectedly end at 12: 01 a.m. on November 4. Lots of people on both sides have become persuaded that the opposite can only win through chicanery, and they will be reluctant to accept the results even if their candidate has. And even if they do accept the outcomes, there is likely to be both sticking around bitterness and a determination to continue the battle into the next election cycle.
Leaders might attempt to take the suggestions that Richard Brodhead offered after the 2016 election. In an open lette r to the Duke University neighborhood, Brodhead, who was then the university’ president, said: “Whatever positions we kept in this contest, we all have a stake in the future health of the national neighborhood, so we all require to discover ways to minimize negativism and department and to reengage the common good.” He went on to emphasize the university’s “respect for differences” and stated that “we should not simply tolerate difference of opinions but produce the conditions for considerate discussion that permit mutual education to take place.”
However what if you can not state on November 4 that the project “has concerned an end?” Worse, what if some are pressuring you to say that and others are pressing you to refrain from stating that?
Here are 7 recommendations, drawn from Dialogue Job research, that can assist supervisors and leaders browse the difficulties of a drawn-out post-election-day conflict:
Whichever of the two post-election scenarios plays out, it will be handy to relate your efforts around respect, empathy, and understanding to the variety, equity, and inclusion efforts that are likely currently underway in your company. And bear in mind that everything you say and do might end up being public, possibly with audio and video on social media.
The events of 2020, from the pandemic to the spotlight on racial injustice, make clear that organization leaders need to now step up to assist bridge the divide.
As James Momon, a General Mills executive, observes in the Discussion Job report: “We’re moving into area where generally corporations didn’t tread. But we can never ever fix problems that we aren’t willing to speak about.” To do that, America’s business leaders should step up to assist mend the frayed material of civil discourse.