When I landed my dream job, my coworkers welcomed me with open arms. The job description seemed written for me. When he offered me the job, the general manager told me that once I proved myself I’d be in line for a promotion into supervisor, because I possessed a skill set that spanned several departments. I foolishly thought I’d found a work family I’d never leave. That all changed when a coworker asked me a question as we congregated, six feet apart and wearing masks, in a large conference room for an all hands meeting and potluck.
“Who do you plan to vote for?”
I gave an honest answer and one I thought was safe, “I haven’t decided yet. I don’t like of them.” Silence fell over the room. I looked around and everyone stared back at me.
“I can’t believe you’d even consider voting for Trump,” my questioner continued.
“I don’t like him, but I don’t like Biden either.”
Another coworker stood up and came toward us. “What are you afraid of?”
“Republicans are demonizing democrats. What are you so afraid of you can’t vote for Biden?”
“I’m not afraid.” I thought for a second about saying that democrats were demonizing republicans but could feel the chill in the room. Instead I said, “I don’t like Trump’s personality. He’s a narcissistic, egotistical bully. And stupid on COVID and climate change. But I don’t like Biden either.”
“Why not?” Her tone was antagonist.
I hoped that if I explained, I could make things better. “He’s dishonest. The deals he cut to benefit his son, and he’s not apologetic. And the way he attacked that man in a town hall meeting.”
I felt the dark cloud that had fallen over the room, and saw my coworkers glancing at each other and shaking their heads. I tried to save myself, and said, “I like Buttigieg or Klobuchar. I’ve prayed for a Pete Buttigieg/Carly Fiorina ticket so we could finally get bipartisan.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see coworkers rolling their eyes.
“You don’t need to worry, Kamala Harris is going to be the one running things.”
But I am worried. When the general manager came in and publicly welcomed me to the team, he clapped, hoping, I believe to have everyone clap. Some clapped weakly. Some didn’t.
What do I do now? I fear I’ll never be accepted. I’m leaning toward quitting, but I really did love this job and had liked my coworkers. I also don’t know what I’ll say if an interviewer asks, “Why are you leaving this job?”
When two candidates and their followers demonize the other candidate and his or her followers, it leaves bitterness that can’t help but sour relations in the workplace. Before the 2016 elections, those who supported losing candidates generally swallowed their disappointment and moved on. It’s been different since.
While it’s not okay that you face this, you do, which means you need to learn how to deal with it.
First, give it time. Right now, you’re an unknown. Once you interacted professionally and add your talent to team projects, others will begin to see you.
Second, this situation gives you the opportunity to learn a hard lesson: How to handle disapproval, a particularly important skill if you intend becoming a supervisor. When supervisors can’t handle disapproval, manipulative employees learn how to play them. If you let others’ disapproval run you or force you to quit a job you love, you’ll take the easy way out, and lose part of yourself.
Stay, and talk with your work family. We learn the most when we respectfully listen to and talk with those who hold views other than our own. We all need to heal the divisions breaking our country apart.
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© 2020, Lynne Curry
Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016, https://amzn.to/30V5JO6) and “Solutions”, https://amzn.to/2GYlnAN (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com). Send your questions to her at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit her @ www.communicationworks.net or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.