This month’s anniversary of President Trump’s first year in office brought to mind a unique leadership challenge for the CEOs of especially small to mid-size companies immediately after his election. Many were confronted with the “morning after” shock at their “all staff” meetings. Business agendas were almost immediately shredded by those employees very upset at the mere thought of a President Trump. Some, notably younger and immigrant staff, were visibly distraught; emotionally voicing their fears, anguish, resentment and demands that the company leadership do something about it. More activist staff began insisting companies start donations to civil rights, immigration and women’s rights organizations.
The reality, however, was that not everyone felt the same way in these offices. There were those friends and work mates that were indifferent, or not necessarily upset, and some of course were happy about the outcome of the election. Those staff however, were emotionally and totally taken back by other’s reactions and stunned into silence. They feared harassment and ridicule. The situation had the makings of a perfect storm in the development of suddenly hostile workplace environments that could derail the companies’ ongoing business activities.
It became critical for a company’s leadership to immediately contain these situations while recognizing, acknowledging and respecting the election’s impact on their employees. While the CEOs were also initially jolted by the reaction and unsuccessfully tried to get the meetings back on track, it became clear they needed to simply end the meetings and regroup. By the next day CEOs, through various mechanisms and vehicles, communicated to their employee’s numerous messages with regard to respecting the impact the election had on many of them. But they needed also, to put parameters around the voicing of political views of any type during office hours and focus on their professional responsibilities for the business at hand. The leadership acknowledged their employee’s freedom of expression but on their own time. The CEOs also offered to develop charitable donation plans to non-political but socially important causes such as those supporting the homeless, food banks, and disabled veterans. However, there was one surprising action that began to evolve.
The End of Broadcasting Cable News Shows in Corporate Offices?
Which brings me to HGTV (Home & Garden TV). Yes, that addictive cable entertainment channel with programs on home-buying, renovation, and the business of house flipping. The home of Property Brothers, Flip or Flop, Fixer Upper, Beach Front Bargain Hunt and Tiny House Hunter among other similar shows. It is consistently among the top 5-10 cable networks by viewership.
It is also, a ‘safe space’, non-threatening, non -ideological or political, calming and an opiate for all those trying to escape the minute-by-minute drum beat of anger, vitriol, noise, rants and otherwise blood pressure increasing talking head programming on most cable news channels. Sides are chosen, tolerance of opposing views heretical on all sides, 24/7 of nothing but senseless drama and churn. While it has always been popular, HGTV has become an escapist mindless sanctuary for many wanting to turn away from the histrionics on cable news. In my various business meetings in the weeks and months since the election I started to notice that dozens of corporate office reception and employee area TVs are no longer showing cable news such as Fox News, CNN or MNSBC (with a minor exception for many defense contractors) and are now broadcasting, you got it….HGTV. I should have thought of that….