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Getting Your Team Through the 2020 Election: A Human Resources Guide

As individuals, many of us are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Election Day, the day we hear final election results, and the day we finally stop refreshing our Twitter feeds every 5 minutes. As businesses, we also immediately wonder what the election will mean for our employees, our customers, and our bottom line.

In 2016 many Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, reported that after Election Day they felt the political climate left them with significant emotional stress that lasted for months after the election concluded. In 2020, election stress is exacerbated by a worldwide pandemic, economic downturn, and racial justice protests. 68% of Americans reported that they are exhausted by the political division in our country, with 71% concerned about widespread violence after the election results are announced.

In a year where the physical line between office and home is blurred (or nonexistent), many see their employer and coworkers as a source of stability and virtual human interaction when family and friends are distanced. As employers seek to support their employees’ wellbeing, the election has become another event that requires a proactive response.

Thousands of businesses have stood up this year to promote access, education, and participation for their employees around the election. Business for America (BFA) has worked with leading brands to ensure employees have time off to vote or be a poll worker. BFA also mobilized companies to provide protective supplies to local election officials and local Get Out the Vote groups supporting voters in line. Kearney joined the call, closing offices early to give employees time to vote on Election Day, ensuring employees are informed by valid election sources, and partnering with Business for America to facilitate access to protective supplies for voters. BFA and Kearney also want to help businesses address the impact of the election on their employees’ wellbeing.

As we approach Election Day, we must recognize that the election will have a lasting impact on some of our colleagues and employees, and it’s up to leaders to be a resource. This means raising our hands to help our community, ensuring people have the access to any assistance they need, including mental health support, and encouraging everyone to operate with respect and authenticity. As leaders and members of the business community, we ask our peers to plan for employee resource availability and transparent communication that may be needed in any of the potential outcomes.

How to Prepare
Each business will choose the communication strategy that is best for their company and employees. With multiple potential scenarios coming out of Election Day, it will be important to prepare in advance. We’ve developed a framework for 2020 possibilities regardless of who wins, starting with a few questions to ask yourself as you prepare to talk to your staff:

  • What are your colleagues focused on right now? What are their concerns?
  • What do we know about the situation based on public information and guidance from election officials so far?
  • How can we continue to focus on our business while building a space for communication and support?
  • How will colleague sentiment vary across regions and geographies?

As we emerge from this election, many of us will have differing reactions based on the outcome and our own perceptions, political viewpoints, and values. As business leaders, it’s up to us to recognize the diversity of experiences in our clients and colleagues and support them. The key here is authenticity and respect.

Here are five essential steps to creating a safe, non-judgmental space with your team.

  1. Check in with yourself and how you’re feeling around Election Day and beyond. It’s on all of us as leaders to be the best we can for our teams and clients.
  2. Check in with colleagues and staff on an individual level. For some, politics isn’t something that is discussed. For others, it will be top of mind every minute on Election Day and beyond. Help teams feel supported in an uncertain and disruptive time.
  3. Set expectations with managers throughout the organization for supporting employees, dealing with different scenarios, and providing resources.
  4. Highlight mental health resources such as an ombudsperson and Employee Assistance Programs.
  5. Consider talking points for interactions with clients and customers who may want to engage on the topic.

Would you like BFA to keep you informed about helping employees through the emotional aftermath of the 2020 election? We invite Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion, Learning & Development, and management professionals to take part. Please sign up below!

Sarah Bonk, Founder and CEO, Business for America
Beth Bovis, Partner in Leadership, Change and Organization, Kearney

Resources to help employees through the election and beyond

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