You Do Not Lead Democrats or Republicans, You Lead People!
I hope no one told you leading was going to be easy because it is not. It is even more difficult when your workforce is split down party lines. This election shows the country is split down the middle. This means half of your workforce feels a lot different than you do. In the military you would think that it is easy to keep the tempers down. After all, the DOD has strict policies on what activities will and will not be tolerated. The Hatch Act is very clear. It also applies to GS employees but that is a topic for another blog.
When I was a Command Master Chief in the Navy, I did not mind a little healthy discourse in the Chief's Mess because sometimes that is just how we work things out and get things done. Sometimes we all go to far. Sometimes we needed to remind each other what was not going to be accepted during election season and for the most part very few pushed the limits. When someone would take it too far, it was usually because the news was on in the mess during lunch or some big story had just come up and the arguments would begin. Sometimes you must agree to disagree and get back to business. If words were exchanged that needed to be addressed, we did so in private.
I had many Senior Enlisted Leaders with very strong political views. I know your social media is “YOURS” but if you invite the people you lead to your page and then you spew hate for a particular political party, how do you think your team sees you? If you have such a strong and hateful opinion about all Republicans or all Democrats and they are on the other side of the political aisle, how do you think they are going to feel in your presence? Do you think they trust you will treat them fairly?
If you chose to be very open about your political views, then you also need to be very open with your team about how you value their views as well. Any organization that wants to be successful needs to embrace diversity, this includes diversity of political opinions. You need to set boundaries early, remove friction points (i.e., news playing in common spaces) and address personal attacks. Our differences are what make us not only a great service, but a great country. It is acceptable to have a different opinion than others. Until we can all be adults, we need to be ready to lead during elections!