Congratulations. You survived the 2016 Presidential elections last Tuesday. Over the weekend, you mourned or celebrated, depending on your political viewpoint. If you are a project manager, wondering how to deal with the election results, here’s a quick cheat-sheet.
#1 Put politics aside and do your job
No matter who you voted for in the election, your obligations as a project manager require you to put politics aside. Forget Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: you manage a project team and are responsible for deliverables. In most cases, the deliverables are unlikely to be affected by the election results. So, stay above the fray, and focus on your job!
#2 Be kind to your team members and demonstrate empathy
Now that you have put aside your own emotions, you need to consider that many people are personally affected by the election results. As I have written about previously, emotional intelligence is the key to project management. On your team, there will be people who are disappointed or elated by the news that Donald Trump is our next president. Demonstrate to team members that you understand their anxiety if they have personal concerns about the results. Even if you are disappointed by the results, show respect and understanding for Trump supporters.
#3 Set boundaries for acceptable behavior
The elections were tense. We all know people that got into heated discussions on social media. Now that the election is over, project managers need to make it clear that certain behavior is not tolerable. Name calling cannot be accepted in the workforce. Period. Similarly, any behavior that is considered bullying or any harassment on the basis of skin color, religion, sexual preferences, ethnicity etc., should be treated with severity.
#4 Find the silver lining
Your team may disagree on many things, but ultimately what unites us should be stronger than what divides us. Sure, that is cliché and not always easy to put into practice after such a devise election. Unfortunately, that’s your job. No matter who wins an election, America is blessed with a constitution that guarantees civil rights and a system of government with institutional checks and balances. Whether you are petrified or elated, there is only so much damage (or good) that any President can do.
#5 Review team communications
Let’s not assume that everyone on your team has the level of maturity required to navigate through these difficult times. It is important to formalize and remind people about what is and is not acceptable behavior. Consider a group team-building exercise, especially if there is lingering tension between team members. Re-visit communications policies. If your team collaborates via instant chat, make sure that they are not using a social media platform such as Facebook. Closed collaboration tools that provide interactive whiteboards, real-time chat, and message boards help ensure that team members spend fewer energies on non-productive activities.
#6 Be sensitive to remote team members
Many virtual team members include colleagues that work from their home office. In many cases, these are also based overseas. Whereas co-workers who share a common space become friends over time, virtual team members are at a social disadvantage. Ask your team to be sensitive to overseas remote team members that may be confused or disorientated by the election results. To the extent possible, try to limit politically-based discussions with remote team members.
As a side note, a project manager is similar to the secretary of defense, the product manager is the president (CEO). Read here for the difference between the project and product managers.