Politics Can't Stop the Hustle: How to Handle this Election at Work

Wondering how to handle your reaction to this election at work? Find out at CubicleHustler.com

Hey there hustlers.  

The past 48 hours have been a doozy.  Depending on where you stand, you are either elated and hopeful or disappointed and discouraged.  The thing that both sides have in common is probably surprise.  

What this election certainly revealed is that despite the fact that the internet and social media have made it easier than ever to seek out opposing viewpoints and make friends with people you would, now more than ever, our country is deeply divided.  Despite all the technological breakthroughs, it's actually easier to only surround yourself with people who think, act, and like you.  And thanks to social media algorithms that learn what we like so they can serve us more of the same, many of us are never actually engaging in real dialogue with those who disagree with us.  More than that, it's revealed that we tend to get our facts from different sources, trustworthy or not, that only serve to reinforce, not challenge our beliefs. 

So post election, you will likely be walking into a workplace with people having a completely opposite, 180-degree reaction from yours.  And, let's just call a spade a spade here, if you are a young person of color in a majority white office or company who voted for Clinton (as data shows was the favored choice for our demographic), you are probably walking into an office with at least one, if not plenty, of Trump supporters.  

If you still need your job, and the paycheck that it provides, you'll need to be sensitive to that fact and comport yourself so that you can keep it.  


Don't Take the Bait!

It's generally frowned upon to discuss politics and religion in polite company, and the workplace normally falls into the definition of polite company.  So in general, try to avoid the subject altogether.  Some people will want to talk about it, to gloat or to commiserate, and some will try to bait you into discussing it.  No lie, I have a friend whose boss demanded to know who she voted for on Election Day (major HR violation, btw) and wanted to debate the merits of their chosen candidates.  

If you're not interested, don't have the energy or know you can't do it without snapping, don't engage.  At all.  Redirect the subject back to work or whatever the project at hand is.  Do this as many times as you need to.  

"Bob, I don't believe in debating politics at work, so what I really need from this conversation is to confirm that the vendor agreement is going to be done by 3 pm to meet the deadline."

Sometimes avoidance is the best way to protect your own mental health and state of balance.  And after 48 hours or think pieces, opinions and dissection, if you've had too much, feel free to completely disengage. 


Be Realistic

Let's say you're up for the conversation, and work in a place where this kind of debate is encouraged, or at least tolerated, understand that most people see their politics as extensions of how they see themselves.  At this point, no one is likely to change their stance, be realistic that it isn't likely to have the impact you want.  This election has shown us nothing if not that people will believe what they want to believe, regardless of what facts may show.  

Also be realistic about how people are really feeling.  Americans split nearly 50-50 in this election.  The margin of difference between the votes cast between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is slim.  Last count had Clinton up in the popular vote by less than 150,000 votes.  While that may seem like a tragedy to some, or the luck of the electoral odds to others, what it really means is that for every person devastated, there is one elated, and vice versa.  Know that everyone doesn't feel like you and that they're probably never going to.  

So if you're going to talk about it, use that conversation to express yourself, what you're feeling and maybe try to understand the same from the other side.  Don't expect to change minds and don't expect your feelings to be mirrored.  


Try Not to Mentally Indict People

Like I said, we tend to think of our politics as part of who we are - integral to our worldviews and a reflection of our values.  So it can be hard to learn that someone you thought you liked voted for someone you absolutely despise.  And again, in spade calling fashion, if you are a person of color, it can be hard to feel fondly and trust a white person who you believe voted for a man who hates you for your race, your national origin or religion.  Trust me, I get it.  

But you must realize two things - 1. people are inherently selfish and 2. people vote for different reasons.  Your colleague may be an undercover racist who cast her vote out of hate or she may think you're fine and just wanted lower taxes or some other campaign promise.  Truth is, you aren't likely to know why your she voted the she did.  So absent some proof that the most insidious answer is the reason, don't make an opposing political view an indictment on that person as a whole.  

This isn't me singing some kumbaya, let's all hold hands unity song.  It's me focusing on one central fact - you only have to work together.  

You don't have to marry this person, invite them to your mom's house for pie, or share personal information on your life with them.  It really doesn't matter why they voted why they did because they are not going to change their mind and you are not going to have some deep intimate relationship together.  You just need to have a decent enough relationship to get your work done.  I believe that you can find common ground and have a decent working relationship with almost anyone, even the Trump supporter two cubicles over.


Practice Self Care

Confession time - I couldn't make it to work yesterday.  I felt like I was in a daze.  I physically, mentally, emotionally just could not do it.  So I stayed home and worked remotely.  I told my team to do the same thing.  

If your office is flexible, or if you have enough days saved up, take time away.  Self care is a thing.  Protect your mental state and spirit if you need to.  Until calling in black (or muslim, or woman, or immigrant, you get the point) is truly a thing, figure out a way to get the time that you need.  


Try these things to help you keep it together.  I won't end by trying to tell you things will be better because I honestly don't know.  And depending on where you are right now, that might not be true.  But what I do know is that you have to take each day as it comes and protect your mental state against too much stress, anxiety and worry.  Use work as your place to tune out all the noise and focus on just the task at hand.