Like religion, politics has always been a relatively dicey topic to dive into with someone, often producing heated results. Now, The Trump Effect on American Relationships Survey from Wakefield Research shows that the modern political climate is wreaking havoc on American relationships and marriages, potentially upending many of the businesses people love and depend on.

What researchers found

In the nationwide poll of 1,000 participants, Wakefield Research found that

  • 1 in 10 Americans (11 percent) and 1 out of 5 millennials (22 percent) have ended a romantic relationship over political differences.
  • 3 out of 10 Americans have experienced a negative impact on their relationship due to the general political climate.
  • 1 out of 5 Americans (22 percent) and more than 3 out of 10 millennials (35 percent) know a couple whose marriage or relationship has been negatively impacted specifically due to President Trump's election.
  • A third of the individuals who did not support President Trump say they would consider divorce if their partner did.
  • The level of relationship difficulty resulting from the Trump presidency is nearly on par with finances, which is often cited as the biggest source of relationship stress. 1 out of 5 couples fought about Trump policies more than money, and about a quarter of those surveyed (24 percent) say Trump's election win has led to more political disagreements/arguments with their partner than ever before.

Why businesses need to pay attention

The United States Census Bureau shows that millions of American businesses are jointly owned and operated by spouses. (You can see how those businesses break down more specifically according to gender, ethnicity, and similar factors in their chart.) What's more, plenty of people end up dating people from the office, with 38 percent admitting to dating a coworker at least once over the course of their career. And just under a third (31 percent) have married someone from work.

Considering the above statistics, the odds are pretty good that romance and business will intertwine on some level, if not for you, for one of your teammates or employees. If you are running your company with your partner and call it quits because of your political views, in the best case scenario, you'll need to find someone to take over your partner's responsibilities and experience temporary productivity and customer service drops. In the worst case scenario, you and your partner might face a long, expensive battle over how to operate the company that ultimately rips the business apart. And even if you aren't working with your spouse, the stress people feel from politics can spill over into interactions with others, causing distractions and conflicts.

Tips for dodging the "Trump Effect"

Politics doesn't have to endanger Cupid or your company.

  • Delegate some responsibilities where you can. You need time to stay connected to your partner and remember who they are outside of business and politics.
  • Respectfully ask your partner or teammate not only how they feel, but why they feel it. Very often, political views are shaped by personal experiences and the basic desire to preserve self-interests. In that context, people sometimes follow candidates simply because those candidates trigger intense emotional recall on one point, not because they support the candidates on everything or share negative personality traits with those candidates. You might just need to understand what they're afraid of or fighting for to work things out.
  • Consider a "business pre-nup" that outlines what happens to the business if you and your partner go your separate ways.
  • Acknowledge differentials but stress the common ground wherever possible.
  • Enlist influential individuals in the company to promote a spirit of cooperation and, if necessary, mediate.
  • Put the political issue on the table and talk candidly about your desire to not let it interfere with your company vision and core values.
  • Ask for and share reputable sources for political information. Encourage a "pros and cons" style of discussion for that data to keep people thinking more analytically rather than based on pure emotion.

Republican, Democrat or anything in between, we can't escape politics completely. It shapes much of what is around us, including business law, internal policy and interaction. But we also need each other. Do your best to communicate openly and with sincerity and always remember that a business is not a business without its people, whatever their views happen to be.

Published on: May 19, 2017