You’ve heard the phrase “It’s not personal it’s just business” but what happens when business becomes personal?
You might say that the US presidential campaign is the ultimate job interview. The 2016 campaign has been the most divisive and vicious in recent history, with personal barbs being thrown from both sides. From an HR perspective if this really were just business then neither candidate would have been hired. Now that Donald Trump has been declared the winner, how can the country come together and unite behind them?
Conflict is an inevitable part of working relationships. When people with different perspectives and backgrounds spend any amount of time together working towards a similar goal there are always going to be disagreements. Whether two people are vying for the same promotion or just don’t get along, it’s how you manage the clashes that’s important. Conflict doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Managing disputes the right way can provide opportunities for learning, growth and creativity for employees and management alike.
The old adage that certain conversations should be avoided at work - football, politics and religion - has never rung truer than at election time. As we’ve seen throughout the course of this campaign emotions have run high on both sides. People are passionate about which candidate they support and equally, if not more so, passionate about the reason(s) they dislike the other candidate. The important thing to focus on now is the future.
It’s natural that people will be frustrated or annoyed if they voted for the losing candidate or campaign, as we saw here in the UK with the vote to leave the EU, but it’s important to accept the decision and move forward. That can only happen with a degree of pragmatism and empathy. As the President elect who now needs to lead a divided and disenchanted team, Donald Trump must understand the importance of unity and building a team to work towards a common goal. Ultimately this will rely on his leadership skills and ability.
Top tips for uniting a workforce/country:
1. Deal with the elephant in the room
Acknowledge that people may be frustrated or concerned about the outcome by having an adult conversation. Enable people to ask questions, raise their concerns and work through them. Don’t be afraid to deal with difficult questions or provide answers that people may not necessarily want to hear. People appreciate honesty and showing you really are listening to their concerns will help you to build or rebuild relationships.
When people feel that they are not being heard, or one party is being favoured over the other, then resentment and anger will arise. If that is left to bubble under the surface it can worsen over time. While it’s important that people are able to speak freely this is where you as a leader come in – you should ensure that conversations remain productive and nobody feels under attack.
2. Communicate your vision and future directions
Be enthusiastic about your vision for the future, laying out your plans and the roles that people will play in delivering this goal. This needs to be from an organisational perspective as well as individually – does your vision for the future enable people to be masters of their own destiny?
Ensure that you create clear lines of responsibility, enable people to take on supervisory and mentorship roles, give them confidence to trust your ability to deliver results and a clear focus as to what you want to achieve.
3. Be honest and show integrity
If you have promised something then now it is time to deliver, whether this is policies, procedures, incentives or rewards. People trust leaders based on their ability to deliver what they have promised. Can you?
4. Expect opposition
It’s natural for people to be frustrated or disappointed with a decision such as this, and it’s your role as a leader to overcome these frustrations. Some people may attempt to undermine or derail your thoughts, whether overtly or subtly. You should deal with this in a fair and just way.
Do not hold grudges. Everyone make mistakes, it’s how you acknowledge and overcome them that is important now. Don’t be disheartened if not everyone believes in your vision or in you!
5. Be patient
Rome wasn’t built in a day.