Your leadership can bring workers together and help them focus harmoniously on common goals and successes.
You just have to spend five minutes on Twitter or Facebook to see how divided Americans are and how passionately people hold their beliefs. In the days and months to come, these feelings aren’t just going to disappear. To keep differences, disagreements, and even grudges from growing and festering in the workplace, it’s essential to start building bridges and healing rifts now.
Start with a few key steps:
- Encourage volunteerism. Especially for those who spent time campaigning in recent months, it will be important to direct their energy elsewhere now that the election is over. Encourage workers to volunteer in the community for causes and issues they hold dear. As volunteering promotes camaraderie and teamwork, consider bringing together employees on both sides of the political divide for a nonpartisan, organization-wide volunteer project, such as raising money for a local food bank or pet rescue group.
- Focus on organizational goals and mission. Remind employees of the organization’s short- and long-range goals. Set a few targets for each quarter and establish ways for teams to work together to achieve these. Celebrate successes (even small ones) as a group and recognize contributions across the board.
- Create communities with commonalities. Encourage employees to start special interest groups and activities that unite people around positive, common (non-political) passions and pursuits. These might include book clubs, lunchtime walking/fitness groups, a softball or soccer team, or a dog or cat lovers club.
- Focus on learning/mentoring. Step up professional training opportunities via live programs, webinars, podcasts, online education, or virtual meetings/conferences. Consider monthly lunch programs where employees can share special skills or knowledge with others.
- Work on stress reduction. Conflict often arises when people are stressed out and exhausted, which many people are after this election (especially as the pandemic continues). Remind employees about their mental health and wellness benefits and encourage them to take advantage of these. Virtual yoga and/or healthy cooking classes can help reduce stress and unite employees on mutual goals of feeling better and being healthier.
- Model civility. Remind employees about organizational policies related to workplace behavior. Make sure they understand the consequences of harassing or disrespecting colleagues because they have different beliefs. Model civil behavior in your interactions with people at all levels.
The goal isn’t and shouldn’t be to get everyone to think alike and agree on all the issues facing our country and your organization. Diversity breeds depth, creative problem-solving, and innovation. However, you can unite people around mutual goals and interests and remind them that their contributions as a team matter and can make a difference.