I don’t think presidential elections usually affect the workplace much. Sure, everyone gets excited in the ramp-up to a big election, but then it’s over and it’s back to business.
But this time could be different. Both candidates have done things that would not be tolerated in most workplaces.
On the Democratic side, we have a candidate who, at best, didn’t follow IT security procedures. In a low-level employee that might not be too big a deal, but a senior corporate executive who presided over a big security breech would be in trouble (just ask the ex-CEO of Target). You would assume that the same would go for a Secretary of State who was privy to some of the biggest secrets in the world – not to mention one who has conceded that her setup was a mistake.
Then there’s the Republican candidate. His language and verbal tactics would definitely be forbidden in any workplace I’m aware of. HR professionals would likely compare his refusal to release tax documents to a corporate executive candidate’s refusal to supply a reference or a resume to a prospective employer, causing the person to be rejected. But if he did get hired somehow, personal attacks and name-calling would soon get him fired.
So what’s a manager supposed to do when confronted with this type of behavior in the workplace? Should the borders of acceptable workplace behavior be widened to accommodate this new reality? Can an employee who goes against company policies claim in defense that it’s okay because the President does it?
Probably not…yet. But our culture can be changed by the actions of our public figures, sports figures, elected officials and movie stars. Unfortunately, celebrities get a lot more press than the teachers, scientists, engineers and line workers who know how to act in public. Pubic figures’ poor behavior slowly, inexorably seeps into the public mindset and can change our rules of morality and behavior inch by inch.
We and our employees (not to mention our kids) are exposed to a constant chipping away of our historic values, both by the behavior itself and the 24/7 analysis of it on the cable news shows. It’s my hope that the next generations of political leaders are seeing what’s happening and will enforce change before we become a dystopian nation of insulting, law-ignoring citizens.