What Do Mail-In Ballots Have To Do With Your Teams?

When our mail-in ballots for the 2020 state and presidential election arrived a week or two ago, my wife and I independently had the same reaction. We both try to be informed voters who spend time learning about the candidates and ballot questions before heading to the polls, and we already knew what our options were before the ballots arrived. Still, though, opening the ballot at home and being able to look at it clearly, without the rush and pressure of standing in a small curtained stall, felt liberating. We both commented how much more we enjoyed the freedom of being able to take our time with the down-ballot candidates and the state ballot questions.

This feeling has stuck with me ever since, and I think it can provide some insight into how we interact with others in the workplace.

This Week’s Tips:

  1. Give your teams the materials they need in plenty of time. Our workplaces and meetings can often feel like standing in a polling booth and seeing options on the ballot that you weren’t aware of. How often have you been presented with material in a meeting that you needed to react to immediately, but that would have been helpful to spend more time with? How often have you put others in that situation? Preparing and sending material to your teams in advance gives them the respect and courtesy to prepare for the meeting themselves; to spend time with the information and gather their thoughts to “vote” in a way they truly believe.
  2. Give options for how your teams can “vote”. This year, millions of Americans are voting by mail or dropping off their ballots. Millions more are participating in early in-person voting to minimize the risk of contracting coronavirus. And millions will vote on November 3, Election Day itself. These options are allowing people to vote in a way that works for them (with some systemic issues; we’ll get to that). In working with your teams, recognizing that different people prefer to speak up in different ways will go a long way in including and honoring all your team members. When presenting project information, give options for people to respond by email, phone, Slack, Discord, or other methods; not just in a meeting itself. If you’ll continue taking responses after a meeting, lay out a clear timeline so everyone can be heard before it’s too late.
  3. Address systemic issues. There are, of course, systemic issues which are making voting harder for millions of Americans. On your teams, ask yourself (and ask your teams!) whose voices are not being heard or included; who else should be involved in the discussion who is not already, and what are the barriers or blocks that need to be removed to make your teams more inclusive?

And, of course, if you are in the United States, make a plan and vote in your state and presidential election if you haven’t already. Give your teams the time and resources they need to be able to vote, and encourage colleagues to do the same.

Try any or all of these this week, and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you!

Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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