When voters went to the polls in October and November to select the next U.S. president, they were necessarily engaging in an adversarial process. Political campaigns are often as much about arguing against a candidate as they are about arguing for a candidate. But in the workplace, employees are looking for different, more nonadversarial interactions from their leaders.
Tough to Separate Personal Politics from Professional Discourse
The 2020 presidential election was one of the most divisive in modern U.S. history, and while it’s obviously difficult to discuss it without getting into a political discussion, the race also highlights differences in leadership styles.
Additionally, as much as one might wish the opposite were true, it is virtually impossible to separate politics and social movements from the workplace.
Even in the most professional setting, employees often can’t help bringing their anxieties to work with them or having their world views impacted by what’s in the news and social media.
The Need for Compassion and Inclusivity
In this contentious environment, some experts argue that two of the attributes employees are looking for most in their leaders are compassion and inclusivity.
“We know people coming to our workplaces are looking for different things than a year ago,” says Steve Pemberton, CHRO of Workhuman, in an interview with Forbes. “In a polarized world, we are looking for more humanity, more connection than we feel when confronted by our polar differences in the political and social landscape.”
“The workplace has a unique opportunity to become a place where we can encounter people from different walks of life, faiths, racial and sexual identities,” Pemberton adds. “Where else can we do that right now? The workplace can be a unifying and healing ground that serves the working constituents and the business community as a whole.”
Profit Still Matters; Civil Discourse Does, Too
It’s important to point out that what employees want out of leaders isn’t necessarily what those leaders should give them. At the end of the day, the primary goal of most organizations is still to generate profit.
But creating a comfortable, safe, and inclusive workplace amid all of the ongoing tension and anxiety can have important impacts on employee morale, productivity, retention, and even mental health, all of which are important to a strong business and healthy bottom line.