Today we’re talking about how partisan fighting can impact the workplace.
When I landed this job, my coworkers welcomed me with open arms and I foolishly thought I’d found a work family I’d never leave. That all changed with the election.
Until the day after the election, I’d kept my mouth shut about my political views. Everyone in my office favored Clinton and viewed Trump as despicable. I remember one woman saying, “How could any thinking woman vote for him?”
Well, I could and did. And I made the mistake of saying so when Trump won, because I felt his election showed there were a lot of people who thought like I did. I’ll never forget the look of horror on my coworker’s face. The news spread like a brush fire. Coworker after coworker confronted me asking, “How could you?”
My coworkers now despise me and act as if I’m a racist and sexist. I fear I’ll never become a supervisor here, which was one of my career goals. I’m leaning toward quitting, but I really did love this job and my coworkers, and I don’t know what I’ll say if an interviewer asks “Why are you leaving this job?”
When two candidates and their followers demonize the other candidate and his or her followers, it leaves bitterness that can’t help but sour relations in some workplaces. In the last two elections, those who supported other candidates generally swallowed their disappointment and moved on. This year feels different for many reasons, including the fact that your coworkers expected their candidate to win, feel betrayed by the contradiction between the Electoral College and popular vote results, and genuinely fear many of Trump’s behaviors.
While that doesn’t make it fair for them to funnel their anger and sense of betrayal toward you, it does mean you need to learn how to deal with it.
First, give it time. This election generated genuine grieving, beginning with shock and denial.
Second, if you are determined to get this promotion, you have some explaining to do. Although the coworker who asked “How could you?” probably meant this question as an attack rather than a genuine question, you can answer. Likely you felt the country needed change. You may choose to hold up a mirror, and say, “Can we get past the labeling? I’m not suddenly a sexist or a racist. Both candidates had flaws.” Regardless, you have a viewpoint and it’s time we healed by listening to those who see things differently than we.
Third, you have a chance to learn a hard lesson: How to handle disapproval, a particularly important skill if you intend becoming a supervisor. When supervisors can’t handle disapproval, manipulative employees learn how to play them. If you let others’ disapproval run you or force you to quit a job you love, you’ll take the easy way out, and lose part of yourself. Stay, and talk with your work family. We all need to heal the divisions this election created or revealed.
© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you’d like an answer to your career question, it’s easy. Write firstname.lastname@example.org. Lynne authored Beating the Workplace Bully (AMACOM, 2016) and Solutions. You can also follow Lynne@lynnecurry10 on Twitter or access her other posts on SheKnows, www.workplacecoachblog.com or www.bullywhisperer.com.