National elections in one African country produced a controversial winner and unsettled employees in a company, where the Chief Executive Officer [CEO] was anxious to keep political debates out of the workplace. Indeed, many organizations have policies that proscribe political discourse in one way or another. In some companies, employees are prohibited from engaging in political discussions or actions within and outside the workplace. In others, employees can freely discuss and participate in political events both in the course of their work and elsewhere. Yet some companies forbid political engagements in the workplace but do not care what their staff do outside the workplace. The company in question fell in the first category – no politics at all.
The CEO was very disappointed and annoyed after the elections as the candidate he believed was popular, whom he had given a vote, was not declared the winner. However, company policy was that he could only vote and keep away from any other political involvement. He always performed his official tasks professionally and believed that all other people did their work diligently. Therefore, he could not appreciate why some people continued to agitate for political alterations after the election results had been announced.
One of the agitators was the politician whom the CEO had voted for. He thought that his candidate had been cheated but also believed that it was not necessary to cry over spilled milk. His candidate was disadvantaged in many ways since the man who was declared winner was also the incumbent President, with power to deploy government resources and institutions to maintain the status quo. The CEO felt sympathy for the deprived candidate but was also very concerned about the inconvenience his agitation could cause to society.
As a CEO, he fixed his attention to office business and avoided discussions and activities related to the national politics of the time. Inwardly, he disliked the government in power and anxiously looked forward to a day when a different breed of politicians would take over. Yet he was averse to anything he thought might cause disharmony. Clearly, the CEO was a pure city elite. Urban elites are great political analysts. They are well informed because of their broad exposure through education, travel, research and access to the mass media. They attend seminars to receive or make informative presentations on many topics, including politics. However, they are unwilling to take risks in pursuit of social justice because they might lose their partial comfort.
The CEO also feared that his political views, once known, might lead to his dismissal from office, since many of the company directors were either working in government or sympathetic to the regime. Therefore, he did not, at any one time, reveal his political preferences nor express his feelings openly during and after the national elections. He kept everything secret. A saying attributed to Paul Tournier proclaims, “Nothing makes us so lonely, as our secrets.”
On Election Day, the CEO had dedicated six hours, lining up to vote for his candidate. He had cast his ballot as intended and was confident victory was coming. He had returned home and waited for the anticipated announcement which, when it came, was devastatingly at variance with the national mood. The institutions with power had declared the incumbent president as the winner of the election. The ordinary citizens fulfilled their responsibility by casting their votes, so it was not their mistake that the victory of the popular politician might have been hijacked. The CEO thus believed that it was time to let go and focus on other things.
Henrik Edberg indeed says, “Letting go can be one of the hardest things to do in life. But at the same, time it can be one of the most powerful and liberating things too.” For this reason, the CEO wished people should abandon political agitation and focus on other urgent issues. A prolonged standoff might disrupt businesses and jeopardize people’s employment. What is clear, in this case, is that most people, especially elites, view elections as a concern for the candidates other than the voters. To cast a vote is seen as a means of helping a candidate to get a job; not a way of assigning the candidate
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