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It’s a week after inauguration day, and America’s new reality is setting in: Donald Trump is our president.
No matter who you supported in the election — or if you were one of many who felt neither candidate represented your views — chances are, you’re still stunned by this.
If the 2016 election taught us anything, it’s that our nation is more divided than most of us imagined.
A pre-election survey by my company, Quantum Workplace, found that support for the two main parties was neck and neck, with 26 percent of employees identifying as Republican and 29.6 percent identifying as Democrat. However, 23.8 percent of employees said they didn’t strongly identify with any political party.
Your organization is most likely equally torn.
Business leaders can no longer ignore the clear rift among us. So, just as President Trump must find a way to unite the nation, you must strive to bring your organization together.
Be warned: it will not be an easy task.
Here are four things business leaders need to do to helm a divided workplace:
1. Address people’s very real fears.
Fear played a big part in the election. From terrorism to the economy to personal rights, America carried a lot of worries with them into the voting booths. As a business leader, it’s important to understand what those fears are and what they stem from.
In our survey, respondents were asked what their biggest concerns were about either candidate being elected. In the case of Trump, fear of another economic crisis and a decline in international trade topped the list. In addition, 48.8 percent of employees worried that Trump would have a negative impact on their career.
Employees will be looking for bad omens now that Trump is officially in office. Quell those fears by opening the lines of communication and providing employees with constant feedback. Let them know you want them to succeed and have their back.
Have managers at all levels conduct regular one-on-one meetings with their team members. Reassure employees about what they are doing right and give them specific paths to improve.
Track what employees are worried about or where they need more support so they can be confident in the quality of their performance. If they know they are being set up to succeed, they’ll be less concerned about job security. And if there are issues, they’ll have the opportunity and tools to improve.
2. Nurture trust.
Trust cost Hillary Clinton the election. Throughout the campaign, she was unable to escape the prevailing sentiment that she was just another lying politician.
Don’t let your employees lose their trust in you.
In business, there can be no trust without transparency. Be honest about decisions you make and explain the thought process behind them. Use your company’s mission statement and values as touchstones for employees — how they are driving actions at all levels so employees can have a sense of consistency.
And remember, employees need to know they matter and that you have their best interests at heart. If they feel like cogs in the machine just contributing to the bottom line, engagement, productivity, and morale will suffer.
Consider how decisions will impact employees and ask for their feedback on your leadership. This will highlight any misunderstandings from employees about why and how things are done.
3. Consider employees’ needs.
Leaders often assume that all employees need or want the same things. That’s why they offer uniform benefits packages or manage all employees in the same way. But as the election and its aftermath has shown, everyone has very different needs that they feel aren’t being addressed.
To lead a divided workplace effectively, you need to understand the differences in your team. Make no assumption based on demographics. For example, think about how women voted in this election. Many considered the female vote securely locked up by Clinton, but according to exit polls, 53 percent of white women voted for Trump.
Survey your employees. Get to know what they want from their job and from you as a leader. That will show you the makeup of your unique workforce and allow you to make better decisions that reflect who they are.
4. Offer productive change.
As Tom Brokaw said during the election coverage, many severely underestimated America’s want for change. It was so deep, voters were willing “to pull a pin on a grenade and roll it across the country” in order to see something different from the government.
Whether Trump’s changes will be for the best is unknown. But as a leader, you can’t ignore that your employees might also want to see some transformations within your organization. Now is the time to take a look at your company and consider how things can be improved.
Talk to employees at all levels and uncover their day-to-day pain points. Get them involved by forming task forces to find solutions to problems. That way, they will have a hand in creating the change they want to see.
America is divided. Those differences don’t go away the minute employees enter the office. It’s up to you to unite your organization in way that is true to who your employees are and what they need from you.
Natalie Hackbarth is the Inbound Marketing Manager of Quantum Workplace, a company dedicated to providing every organization with quality engagement tools that guide their next step in making work better every day. You can connect with Natalie and the Quantum Workplace team on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
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