Usually, politics is off-limits when chatting at work. But Election Day is different. Tuesday it's okay to say, “Did you vote?” And it's a good question to ask. It's not a lightening rod like, “Do you support late-term abortion?” but you can learn a lot about your co-workers by whether or not they vote, even if you don't know how they vote.
One of my earliest memories is of my mom taking me into the voting booth with her. (I have never actually seen parents do this in other places — maybe it's a special treat for us rural Illinois kids.) She made voting seem like a very important treat, and I remember being shocked as a teenager to discover that there were nonvoters in my neighborhood.
Now I understand that there are three steps to the process of voting: Convince yourself that your vote matters, figure out who to vote for, and make time to vote. The first two steps, you'll have to do on your own, but I can help with the third. For those of you thinking that you can't take time out of your workday to vote, I've got news for you: You will look better at work if you vote, so you may as well take the time off.
The best people to work with are the people who vote, even if they vote for politicians you hate. People who vote think what they do matters, and they feel the power to effect change: two key attributes of someone who will take charge in business. Also, people who vote are thoughtful. They have 1. taken the time to decide that voting is an important aspect of democracy and they want to participate and 2. done their homework to figure out which levers to pull. Voters are people who take responsibility for themselves and the greater good.
It is not a coincidence that voters make better co-workers, because companies depend on many of the ideas that democracies depend on. For example, both believe strongly in the concept that each person matters, but both will continue even if each individual does not participate whole-heartedly. Both thrive on the idea that individuals can effect change and that people are responsible for their own fate.
I have voted in four states, and in each state, I received an “I voted” sticker when I left the polling place. I love wearing the sticker to work because on Election Day, voters form a club. These people know that even if they did not vote the same way, on some level, they have shared values because they made the decision to vote. There have been people at the office whom I despised, but when I saw them wearing that sticker, I thought, “Okay. Maybe he's not that bad.”
So for those of you who are having trouble making time in your busy work schedule to vote, remember that voting actually makes you more respected in the workplace. People make time for what's important to them. If you have decided that voting is important, but you do not make time to vote, you look like you are out of control at work — unable to manage your time. You make the world a better place by telling people that voting is so important that you have to leave work early to get to the polls before they close. And if you're a manager, you can't force your employees to vote, but you can close the office a few hours early. And I recommend that. Because good voters make good employees.