Companies should avoid scheduling important work tasks immediately following an election, according to a study from the University of Waterloo.
Researchers discovered the outcome of the U.S. presidential election affected employees’ engagement and performance at work — if they voted for the losing side.
Focusing on American voters, the study asked participants to rate their job engagement and work performance at three points: the week before, the day after, and a week after the 2016 U.S. presidential election involving Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Before the election, both sets of voters were equally engaged in their work. However, immediately following the election, voters who backed the losing candidate (Clinton) reported a large decrease in their work engagement and job performance. The effects were short-lived and engagement returned to normal within a week of the election. Still, the researchers estimate that the election outcome could have resulted in $700 million USD in lost productivity the day following the election.
“Our results suggest employers may be wise to avoid scheduling important tasks or meetings immediately after an election,” says James Beck, a psychology professor at Waterloo. “It may be especially important to clearly communicate work goals during the days immediately following an election in order to keep employees on track and motivated.”
Although presidential elections only happen every four years, the findings could apply to other major public events as well, including historic events and sporting events.
“Many people have strong political identities, making elections a personal event,” says Beck. “It’s possible that other events with implications for individuals’ identities may result in spillover into the workplace as well.”
The Effects of U.S. Presidential Elections on Work Engagement and Job Performance appeared in Applied Psychology: An International Review.