Benefits

Managing Emotions in a Post-Election Workplace

By Andie Burjek

Nov. 15, 2016

wf_1114_online_eapelection_tom-gimbel-2015-headshot
Tom Gimbel of LaSalle Network sent an email to his staff addressing post-election reaction.

In the days following a divisive presidential election cycle, some employee reactions have been emotional in one way or another.

“We’ve seen a slight increase in calls to the employee assistance program after Tuesday, with a wide range of emotions from people who were distraught to verbal spats in the office over the election outcomes,” said Dr. Richard Chaifetz, CEO of EAP provider ComPsych, in an email interview. “This has been one of the most difficult election cycles for all involved, and we’ve gotten requests from managers as far as how to mend relationships and move ahead.

ComPsych offered this kind of advice to managers with employees who were bickering about the election results — in particular the presidential race won by Republican Donald Trump. Don’t bring up the issue unless you need to, because people are already “burned out on media coverage about the election and its results.” Don’t add to the friction by bringing up the topic unnecessarily. Also, managers should encourage employees to treat each other with respect and focus on what they have in common rather than political differences.

It’s not just managers. The day after the election, the Chicago Tribune reported that some company employees were calling EAPs and reporting “depressing thoughts or even sinking feelings of doom,” according to Phillippe Weiss, managing director of some employees at Seyfarth Shaw at Work, a legal compliance and consulting services company.

Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network, is one leader who responded to the emotional post-election.

His wrote an email to the company on the Friday after the election. “I said that we are an establishment built on friendship, respect and work ethic, and there are certain things we can control and certain things we can’t,” he said. “And if this inspires people to get more involved on politics, on a local or national level, that’s a great result.”

Gimbel also added that as it was a very emotional time after the election, people should feel free to talk about it and discuss it, provided that they still get work done and are willing to respect each other’s opinions. Employees at this company, he added, did not contact EAPs but people did go to human resources more. This was not an anomaly, he said, because the company strives to have a proactive, employee-focused HR department and a company culture that allows employees to talk about emotions.

What’s important moving forward is being able to work together, compromise and not demean or disrespect one another, he said. “The views that the person has are the same views as they were a month ago, and you could work with them then.”

One creative solution he had for employees who are bickering over politics is to show them conversations or video clips of celebrity couples, like James Carville and Mary Matalin, famous people of opposite parties who are married.

Andie Burjek is a Workforce associate editorComment below or email aburjek@humancapitalmedia.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

Andie Burjek is an associate editor at Workforce.com.

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