Finding hope for Business in this Terrible – Horrible – No – Good- Very – Bad Election Cycle.

ellen-ensherlindsey-western

Ellen Ensher & Lindsey Western

I feel badly that for my college students this is their very first time to vote in a Presidential election. I feel badly that this election cycle is so rife with negativity and that “Election Stress Disorder” is not an SNL script but a real experience for people. According to the APA, “more than half of U.S. adults, regardless of party, feel very or somewhat stressed by the election.”

With all the negative media surrounding the 2016 election, the stories are polarizing, and tensions are higher than ever. It makes it difficult to find a silver lining anywhere in the thick of the news. However, I try to remain optimistic. Recently, Lindsay Western (Lindsay is an LMU MBA student) and I were chatting and we decided maybe there are some positive lessons we can pull out from all this darkness. I hope you might be willing to reflect on some of these ideas with an open mind.

Here are three hopeful ideas for business extracted from this election cycle:

First, regardless of your opinion of Donald Trump, we must agree on one thing. He is not someone who took the traditional path to the presidential role. Many would say that he is uniquely unprepared for the position. As Forbes magazine noted, men tend to apply for jobs when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, while women must meet 100% of the qualifications to apply for the job. Trump did not meet 100% of the qualifications of any president before, but he went for it anyway. As Lindsay says, “I am approaching a moment where I have to soon get back into the career pool. More than ever I am inspired to GO FOR IT. If, Trump can run for President, then I can certainly take on some new risks. Some look at his example and decide to stay home. I look at his example, and say “Why not me?”

Second, privilege is a big dividing factor right now. Race, class, and gender are topics that are being discussed more and more as the election draws near. While it is uncomfortable initially, healthy dialogue about these issues can be good for individuals and companies. In Ellen’s words, “I remember so well the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and the explosive testimony of Anita Hill about sexual harassment in 1991. People were glued to their TV sets and while the conversations that ensued in organizations were often uncomfortable, this event changed the conversation around sexual harassment and eventually led to tremendous positive change. I saw a huge difference in how we handled sexual harassment at work after that. It used to be “suck it up ladies and after the Clarence Thomas hearings things that used to be okay were not okay anymore.” The zeitgeist feels the same now as it did then so I am hopeful that perhaps by raising the collective consciousness all of this pain will become a positive impetus for change.

Third, Donald Trump (70) and Hillary Clinton (68) are both of a mature age. In the U.S., the number of Age Discrimination Employment Act claims continues to rise (the protected age is 40 and above for most jobs). The stereotypes of workers who are 70 or 68 are usually negative. In most professions, reaching for the top job is not seen as a possibility at or after 65. Hate them or love them, they are debunking stereotypes about what is possible for older Americans. For individuals and organizations, I hope this is a wake-up call to embrace and continue to develop employees regardless of age.

Every day when I step into class, my students give me hope for our future. As a Business Professor, I am hopeful that this next generation of business leaders like Lindsay will do better than we did. Remember Pandora’s box from Greek mythology? Pandora opened the box and out flew all the evils of the world and yet what was left in the end? Hope.


About Ellen Ensher

Ellen A. Ensher, Ph.D. is a Professor of Management at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, USA. Dr. Ensher has an established expertise in mentoring programs and career advice, and is a frequent key note speaker and workshop leader for conferences and public and private organizations around the world. Google +
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