First Things First

It’s been just over three weeks since the presidential election.  The Sun still comes up every morning and sets in the evening.  Who would have thought otherwise?  With the U.S. presidential election still technically undecided as not all states have certified their votes, tensions are still incredibly high and divisiveness is at an all-time high.  Tuning into any social media validates that.  Personally, I’ve never seen more divisiveness in the USA in my 56 years on planet Earth.

I can certainly remember voting for specific candidates in presidential elections in years past, but I can tell you that I never felt more emotional and passionate about political choices than I do currently.  Now that may be normal as we get older, as we start to think more and more about the kind of society that our kids and grandkids are going to live in.

I will also say that there appears to be much more discussion and emotion about politics in the younger generations.  I can tell you who I voted for when I was in my twenties, but I can also tell you that I never really let it consume my life, in contrast to today, as it appears many currently do.  

Political Reflection

I’ve lived and worked when there were Democrat presidents in power and when there were Republican presidents in power.  I was successful during both in my career and personal life.  So were millions of others.  Why would that be?  Because we didn’t count on government or our political leaders to dictate our success or how we should live our lives.  We operate and navigate within the system and the rule of law, yet we have the freedom in America to literally do almost anything we’d like, at least presently.

I’m walking a fine line here regarding my own podcast rules of avoiding politics, yet I bring forth the topic to discuss my main point.

Don’t let politics permeate the workplace, dominate your life, and harden your heart.

People’s beliefs of what is right and wrong have never been more clear, yet we still need to get work done, to run the business, and most importantly, to enjoy our lives with friends and family.

I’m fairly conservative in my beliefs about society and as it turns out, politics, yet I’ve worked, survived, and yes, even thrived in some of the most liberal cities and geographies in all of America and Canada during the course of my career.  That list includes northern New Jersey (NYC metro area), Chicago, San Francisco, and Toronto, Canada.  I’ve also worked with people that held some of the most liberal ideology as sacred – as peers, boss-subordinate and vice versa.

Here’s the kicker – never did we let our political beliefs get in the way of delivering for the business and doing our jobs.  I had some of the strongest relationships as it turns out, with those that held diametrically opposed political beliefs from mine.  We didn’t let politics get in the way, and neither should you.

Fundamental Actions

I’ve got just a few suggestions for the working class when it comes to politics and work.  This also includes me, as I need to take my own advice:

  1. Let’s stop talking about politics when we’re supposed to be working. We’re wasting time and money.
  2. Let’s stop judging people based on their political choices. Just because we hold a certain belief doesn’t mean we’re right and others are wrong.
  3. Let’s stay focused on doing our jobs. We’ll feel better and more accomplished at the end of the day.

Now unless you are literally in the business of politics or governmental relations, discussing politics on the job has nothing but downside.  I’m not talking about corporate politics of course, rather local, state, and federal governmental elections.  Most of us are not in political positions.  That’s not why you were hired. Chances are you were hired to make and sell your company’s products and services.   I highly doubt that somewhere on the application you completed or your written job description, it details that you are responsible for sharing your political perspective and be getting paid for it.

A Personal Story

About a year ago my wife and I had dinner with a former mentor and colleague of mine from NJ, along with his wife.  We met more than 30 years ago when I was a young engineer and he, an experienced construction manager.  He possessed incredible technical knowledge and experience in the utility business.  I soaked it up.  We did a productivity study in the field early on and then casually crossed paths over the years at my first firm.  He retired many years ago and is now 80 years old.  I had moved on to three more companies and am now writing and speaking, having since quasi-retired from the industry.

We came across each other on Facebook within the last year and reconnected.  On a trip back to Jersey to see family, I reached out to him and sure enough, we sat down to dinner that evening with our wives.  It was awesome to reconnect and reminisce.  We laughed, recalling days gone by, and it was great.  Not once did we talk politics the entire evening.  I have such fond memories of this individual and told him so.  I also told his wife the same, and subsequently, his son and friends on Facebook.

Fast forward several months.  It was now a couple of months prior to the presidential election and I started to see posts from him that were incredibly political, and as it turns out, completely opposite of my own political beliefs.  To be honest, it threw me for a loop.  I began to think, “how on Earth did I miss this?” How could we be so aligned personally and professionally, yet be so different on the political spectrum?

It came to a boiling point as we traded pretty heated messages on Facebook.  His son, whom I’ve never met before, even weighed in, defending his father’s positions, which was totally understandable.  It had gone far enough.  My next response was an apology to both him and his son for anything I said that offended them.  I let his son know how important his father was to me and my development let alone my career.

In that moment I had realized how ridiculous these political spats are, utterly ridiculous in terms of who people are and how they live their lives.  It certainly wasn’t worth it to me to lose a friend and colleague or jeopardize the way in which we felt about each other.  Now even though my former mentor’s parting message to me was, “All is good Greg, say hello to Patricia (my wife)”, and mine the same to him, I don’t and probably won’t ever know if any permanent damage was done to our relationship.

And let me tell you folks, that’s enough for me.  I want to remember my friend and colleague exactly as I always have, and I will, regardless of what he may think of me at this point.  I’ll live with those consequences.  I’ll gladly share my beliefs as appropriate, and I will certainly listen to the beliefs of others, and as hard as it is, I will try and not let that influence how I think of them as a person and would hope for the same in return.

Last but not least

The reality is people have certain political beliefs and biases, and that sometimes says nothing about who they are as people and what’s in their heart.  Most people are well-intentioned, and yet when some of our most ardent philosophies and principles are challenged, it sometimes causes us to be emotionally charged which can result in us not always saying or doing the right thing.

We’re all sinners in the end, and even though we make judgments all day long about people as part of our jobs and careers, we’ll all be judged in the end by a much higher being.  Our time on this Earth is limited, and way too short to let our hearts harden and hold ill-will towards our fellow man for their political biases.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and terrific holiday season!