While 2016 marked highs for many businesses – corporate tax breaks will total well over $180 billion, over 2.2 million jobs were created, and markets performed well – it was less exciting for many Americans of color. For too many Americans, the year ended on a historic low, with the election of a businessman who called Mexicans “rapists”, vowed to create a registry for Muslims, boasted about using his celebrity to sexually assault women, and openly mocked a disabled reporter. While there hasn’t been any pointed research analyzing post-Election Day absenteeism and loss of productivity, anecdotally we know disillusioned friends, family members, and colleagues stayed home or left work early on November 9th. Workplaces that were bustling were rife with cancelled meetings and unfocused people.
While all the following asked to remain anonymous, the truth stands: Donald Trump’s victory was debilitating for many Americans at work. One military veteran reported not being able to fall asleep on election night; another journalist (who had been tasked with covering election night) reported taking the following day off; a defeated young woman in DC left her farm job early – with the full support and encouragement of her boss.
Absenteeism occurs when employees disengage. And employee disengagement under a President Trump is bound to persist unless employers take actionable steps to counter some of today’s political toxicity.
Now more than ever, your employees may be feeling vulnerable.
If your workforce is diverse – think diversity of thought, race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class – then you can be certain your employees were affected by the vitriolic rhetoric espoused on the campaign trail. Trump’s divisive language emboldened white supremacists and misogynists, legitimizing their cause and causing fear among our most vulnerable communities.
A Trump administration poses very real risks and threats to your employees’ personal lives. Take for instance the ACA repeal, which would strip 20 million people of their health insurance and eliminate no co-pay preventative care. Younger workers, who could once stay on their parents’ health plan until they turned 26, would need to buy their own insurance. Separately, a Justice Department run by Senator Jeff Sessions is likely to harbor racial bias that would fail in investigating accusations of police brutality against unarmed Black men. And our incoming Department of Homeland Security is bound is destroy DACA, which afforded many young Latinos work authorization and the chance to build their futures in the America they call home.
The threats posed by Trump’s administration go beyond reactionary policy: Donald Trump & Co. campaigned (and won) based on promises of exclusion rooted in a nostalgia for the ‘good days’ ― where patriarchy and white supremacy ruled over women and people of color. “Make America Great Again” they yelled – often violently – while many feared losing the progress they made under President Obama’s administration.
In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s surprise upset, hate crimes spiked. The Southern Poverty Law Center even created an intake form for people to self-report incidents of intimidation. In the single month after Election Day, the SPLC confirmed 1,094 bias related incidents with anti-immigrant crimes being the most reported.
Business-people should recognize that Inauguration Day will be difficult for many of their employees.
An organization’s systems and processes can easily be replicated by competitors, but an organization’s people cannot. In other words, you find your competitive advantage in your people. A recent report by McKinsey found that businesses with racial and gender diversity are 35% more likely to have “financial returns above national industry medians.” Indeed it is a moral imperative to provide for your employees, but in the context of human resources, it’s also a business strategy.
As HR professionals, we ought to subscribe to three key insights:
- Employees are most productive when they are engaged
- Employee satisfaction is closely aligned to psychologically safe work environments
- Employee absenteeism directly impedes our ability to achieve business objectives
Based on these insights, all people-managers should give their employees off on Inauguration Day.
Your employees need time to decompress and, if they’re inclined, to join the Women’s March in Washington the next day. If you can’t offer your employees a free personal day during this time, I recommend you make a pointed effort to host discussions during work hours to ensure your employees have a safe space to discuss their thoughts freely. This is perhaps one of the more direct ways you can acknowledge their pain and outrage. Its costs are inconsequential to you, but its benefits are tremendous for your employees.
Now, perhaps more than ever, is the time to promote diversity and inclusion at your workplace. Donald Trump takes his oath of office on January 20th, which will cause tremendous pause among many of your diverse employees. Remember: any of your employees identifying as women, Black, Latino, Muslim, veteran, or disabled constitute the very populations Trump attacked throughout his campaign. Give your people time to mourn that day. Afford them the opportunity to join the Women’s March on Washington or the dozens of similar marches taking place across the country. It behooves us to consider the myriad of ways we can support our people during this presidential transition. The business case for inclusion is plentiful, but the moral case for inclusion is undeniably patriotic.
Cristina Lara was the Diversity Manager for Hillary for America, a presidential campaign that won the popular vote with 65,844,954 votes and was the first in American history to be compromised by foreign actors. Of course, her opinions are her own. Follow Cristina on Twitter.