In case you haven't noticed, there is tension in the air. Whether you're talking about large-scale protests or aggressive tweets by the current President of the United States, much of the dialog and coverage of current events is divisive.
With newsfeeds around the world filled with pain, suffering, anger, and fear, it's hard to imagine that the current political structure isn't impacting mental health and productivity. While I haven't read scientific research to confirm my hypothesis, observing body language alone tells me that employees are being impacted. Some individuals look emboldened in their confidence, while the collapsed shoulders of others tell a very different story.
Regardless of your political affiliation, underestimating the impact of political unrest would be a poor decision. Leaders need to pay attention to the ways in which the full spectrum of reactions are impacting their peers. Without paying attention to people's reactions to current events, leaders will become blindsided by sudden sick days and decreased productivity.
When employees used to take breaks and scroll through their newsfeeds, it produced moments of escape. Whether it was laughing at political memes or smiling at cat videos, the internet was a place to recharge and refresh during a hectic day. But now things are different.
Scrolling through social media during breaks now can be a recipe for disaster. Containing all of your intense feelings--whether positive or negative--expends a lot of emotional energy. When you spend many hours each day worrying or fearful of what happened, or being angry at new legislation, it carries over into personal and professional relationships.
On a larger scale, company's reactions to politics is more important than ever before--just ask Uber. Given the importance placed on company's external responses to political events, just as much attention needs to be paid to how companies are handling political discussions internally.
Leaders need to advocate for outside consultation, group discussions, and individual access to mental health resources. Group discussions regarding how to discuss differing political views and how to handle conflict in the workplace can go a long way in establishing a culture of support rather than an environment founded in silence.
Promoting rather than shaming individual therapy and coaching services shows employees and coworkers that you value their emotional wellbeing. Showing your support during these difficult times establishes a long-term relationship with employees that make them want to work for you.
Productivity is directly related to mental health. The greater individuals are fully engaged with the present moment, the better teams and companies perform. Unfortunately, the divisive world in which we are all immersed frequently pulls us from whatever we're doing to an uncomfortable emotional state that is nowhere close to productive.
Even individuals with less overt reactions are feeling the impact--even if they don't know it. Without being aware of why, they may notice themselves having stronger feelings and reactions to others than in the recent past. They may want people to "get over it" or "give it a chance" and unknowingly fall into the role of a bully--which masks their own insecurities and still involves energy being taken away from the task at hand.
Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you identify with, we are all impacted and will continue to be effected by the currents of social change. If you want people to continue working at optimal levels, then you need to be proactive rather than reactive.
The tension in the air is related to uncertainty--and this not-knowing what's going to happen in the next moment is not going away any time soon.