It's the day after election day. Like you, I have strong feelings about the inconclusive result so far, and concerns about where we go from here.
You'll be asked to set aside your personal feelings.
You'll be asked to offer words of leadership and comfort.
You'll be asked to offer guidance to people who might be ecstatic about the results, to others who might be forlorn, and to others whose anxiety might be through the roof.
When you think of it, the workplace is one of the few places left in America where people mix, more or less willingly, with people they disagree with, politically.
As a result, you'll likely be facing a leadership challenge for the ages. What do you say in this kind of situation?
I write a daily email newsletter called Understandably.com, and with the help of my readers, dozens of whom responded to my request for help, I believe we've come up with at least part of the answer.
Let's make it simple. We can boil it down to just five words: "It's better than the alternative."
Now, the "alternative" here isn't "The other guy would have won, instead." (Part of your team almost certainly doesn't believe that, anyway.)
Instead, "better than the alternative" refers to the outcome of our flawed political system -- one famously described as "the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried."
Here's an example of what the alternative could be. This past weekend, the government of Ivory Coast held an election. President Alassane Ouattara was seeking a third term.
Opponents said that's not allowed under the constitution, and they boycotted the voting.
At least a dozen people were killed during the election itself, according to reports, along with 20 others who died in the run-up to voting day.
That's an alternative.
It seems possible there might still be some bloodshed over this incredibly contentious time. It breaks my heart to say that about the country in which I was born and that I love.
But at least I can say that it's still shocking to imagine it can happen under our system.
Of course, "better than a violent, deadly reaction" is a low bar. That's intentional. And, for some rational people, this does feel like life and death.
When I asked my readers at Understandably for their thoughts, they ranged from a reader who expressed abject fear of "socialism" if President Trump were not reelected (her word, not mine), to a reader who is Black and who said she wants Biden because America has become "mean, cruel, and unjust," and "I want my life back."
As a human being, you might read one of those reactions or the other and have a hard time understanding it. But, this is the time when you need to put that reaction aside.
It's no longer about arguing whom people should vote for, if there was ever an appropriate time for that with your team at work. Instead, it's about showing leadership by helping the people on your team move forward from this incredibly contentious political season, inch by inch, day by day by day.
Remember this: As Americans, we don't need to agree with each other.
For the most part, we don't even have to like each other, or particularly want to spend a lot of time with one another. (It's a pretty big country; we can all find our people.)
But we do need to find a way to live with one another. And that's where leaders like you come in.
"It's better than the alternative" is a messy kind of leadership.
It's not especially satisfying. It steadfastly refuses to tell people Pollyannish things they won't believe, especially when memories and emotions are so raw.
We stick to what we can say authentically, and what we can truly believe in.
Start with that, and you'll be on the path to a truly memorable leadership moment.