Org Tension Post Election?
Since the 2016 election was called, there have been reports of organizations facing internal tension based on difference of opinions between employees or leaders making their opinions about the results known. For example, the CEO of GrubHub Matt Maloney, sent the following email to his company:
SUBJECT: So... that happened... what's next?
I'm still trying to reconcile my own worldview with the overwhelming message that was delivered last night. Clearly there are a lot of people angry and scared as the antithesis of every modern presidential candidate won and will be our next president. While demeaning, insulting and ridiculing minorities, immigrants and the physically/mentally disabled worked for Mr. Trump, I want to be clear that this behavior - and these views, have no place at Grubhub. Had he worked here, many of his comments would have resulted in his immediate termination. We have worked for years cultivating a culture of support and inclusiveness. I firmly believe that we must bring together different perspectives to continue innovating - including all genders, races, ethnicities and sexual, cultural or ideological preferences. We are better, faster and stronger together. Further I absolutely reject the nationalist, anti-immigrant and hateful politics of Donald Trump and will work to shield our community from this movement as best as I can. As we all try to understand what this vote means to us, I want to affirm to anyone on our team that is scared or feels personally exposed, that I and everyone else here at Grubhub will fight for your dignity and your right to make a better life for yourself and your family here in the United States. If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here. We do not tolerate hateful attitudes on our team. I want to repeat what Hillary said this morning, that the new administration deserves our open minds and a chance to lead, but never stop believing that the fight for what's right is worth it.
Stay strong, Matt
As you can imagine, this was interpreted to mean many things, to include a vote for Trump meant one was unwelcome at GrubHub. Though Mr. Maloney clarified that is not at all what he meant, we suspect the tension was palpable.
Many people felt emotionally affected by the results of the election, and we do not want to minimize that. However, when it comes to social impact organizations, specifically, it is important to recognize the nearly tangible link between political tides and the work that many of these organizations are tasked with doing. With the coming and going of administrations, work is started with fervor one year and grinds to a halt in the next. Many of these orgs have a mission in which they see themselves as advocating for the voiceless, and must work in response to the people they serve regardless of governmental support (Dempsey, 2012). While GrubHub is not a social impact organization per say it is true that they, too, have a mission and have established a certain organizational culture in order to carry out that mission.
Culture is one of the most important factors within a successful, scaling organization and there is no question that political views can have an impact. Culture is formed intentionally, or not, and we advocate for the former. In order for employees (or volunteers) to feel high levels of trust, loyalty, belonging within an organization there must be commonalties that bind people to one another—they must hold something important in common (Greenwood, 2008). This unspoken norm can be impacted when half of the country wakes up feeling vastly different than the other half of the country. So should you wake up tomorrow and fire everyone who does not align with the organization’s majority political point of view? Not yet.
Diversity can be shown to lead to worse group performance but only when the group does not value intersectional understandings. If group members interpret diversity as enriching rather than threatening, group performance increases with diversity (Greenwood, 2008).
Sustaining cultural diversity is important and should be intentionally done. So how do you sustain this diversity and utilize the current political climate to do so? We advise paying attention to the recurring rhetoric that nobody feels heard or seen. We think the place we spend 20-40+ hours a week is the perfect place to begin addressing this.
-Hold forums: initiate intentional discussion about employee’s concerns especially as they pertain to various viewpoints with a direct effect on the work environment.
-Leave emotion out of it. Stick to the facts. If you are able to do this with your co-workers (and everyone else!) it becomes less personal and more productive (White, 2014).
-Have an escape route. Decide in advance how to leave conversation gracefully when it becomes uncomfortable or overwhelming (White, 2014).
-Humanize everyone. People are complex and beliefs are nuances. Your organization will benefit from encouraging and instructing empathy in these situations (Hochschild, 2016).
-Consider the fundamental attribution error may be at play. In other words, allow other people the benefit of the doubt you are allowing yourself and those that agree with you. Read more about that HERE
Much of this starts from the top. If you are in a leadership position of any kind, we recommend starting these conversations and creating environments where people feel safe to have these conversations with you. Provide tips on how people can talk to each other about these issues and encourage the use of inclusive language. Give people a reason to unite around your mission and your company regardless of their views.
· Dempsey, S. (2012). Nonprofits as political actors. Management Communication Quarterly, 26(1), 147-151.
· Greenwood, R. M. (2008). Intersectional political consciousness: Appreciation for intragroup differences and solidarity in diverse groups. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 32(1), 36-47.
· Hochschild, A. R. (2016). I spent 5 years with some of Trump’s biggest fans. Here’s what they won’t tell you. Mother Jones. Retrieved from: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/08/trump-white-blue-collar-supporters
· White, M. C. (2014, July 14). How to deal if you hate your boss’s political views. Time. Retrieved from: http://time.com/2963212/how-to-deal-if-you-hate-your-bosss-political-views/