Wednesday, June 23

Working When Election Tensions Are Still High

My fondest dream was to wake up to a clear presidential election winner. As of 6 a.m. Eastern time on November 4, it was clear that wasn’t happening. It would take days.

Days of indecision means days of mounting pressure. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are getting increasingly stressed out, with both sides convinced the other side is cheating. When a result does come out, are some people going to blow?

Retailers in major cities expect election violence and have boarded up their storefronts. And just whom are they expecting to be violent? Well, people.

Who are these people? Some of them are rabble-rousers who will use any excuse to be horrible, but some of them may be your employees. Yes, your employees. And you will have to deal with whatever fallout comes through that. Here’s what you need to know.

Zero tolerance for law-breaking.

Getting upset and needing to take a day off is fine. Smashing a store window and stealing things is not OK. It doesn’t matter if you share the employee’s view or not. Violence is not appropriate, and you need to handle all unlawful behavior exactly how you would handle it if it were over a football game or random drunken behavior.

Your first obligation is to protect your employees.

You can protect against property damage by boarding up your storefronts. What about your employees? We’ve seen how  enraged people have become when stores ask them to wear masks. Now, take that and add the stress of an undecided election or an election that goes against the random customer’s preferences. 

The enraged customer may not yell anything about politics–and yet be angry and mean and perhaps violent. Under no circumstances is this type of customer right. Management and security need to act quickly to deescalate and remove angry customers. This is not a risk you need to take right now.

If there is a protest on your business’s street, it’s time to send everyone home. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the 22nd floor of a skyscraper. You don’t want your employees or clients to walk through that to get to your office. You cannot count on a protest to remain peaceful.

Protect your employees. It’s far better to shut down for a day or two than to have someone injured.

If an employee lives in an area engulfed by protestors, and the employee says he can’t come into the office, say, “Stay safe!” and, “Let me know what I can do to help!” and not, “You’ll get here on time, or you’re fired!”

Can I be clearer? No matter what your personal feelings are and whether you feel violence is justified, as a business owner, your job is to protect your employees and keep them safe. 

Emphasize the need to work together.

Regardless of who wins, we’re all in this together. We can either make it easier by working together and setting our differences aside, or we can make it harder by blaming those we disagree with for all our problems. Work together. It’s easier.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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