Protecting Your Team Culture

How Can You Positively Contribute to Team Performance in Divisive Times


It happens every four years. During elections many people become impassioned with communicating their every thought and feeling about the candidates, their concerns and the causes important to them. This is all well and good when having discussions with friends who will likely be open to having a give and take conversation, but if your employees are connected on social media there are potential pitfalls that could crop up in the workplace.

As we focus on enhancing teamwork and communication through Emotional Intelligence, let’s examine some possible threats to productivity as we enter into a New Year with an upcoming transition happening in the White House this month.


While people are often friendly in the office, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have deep and abiding friendships in life – e.g. they may not spend time together outside the office, share common views, etc. When this is coupled with being “friends” on social media, it can present challenges.

Because social media is a great way to stay in touch with many people from across different facets of life, people sometimes have a tendency to “overshare” information with a larger group of people than they actually would without that podium. When these associates also work in the same office together, people who do not share the same viewpoint may start to view their colleagues with different lenses. In doing so, co-workers may find themselves wanting to disagree, dislike or disrespect someone in the office because they did not like their point of view outside the office. Even though they may try to set aside what the other person has posted that they didn’t like, it can secretly linger in the back of their minds as a judgment.

To overcome this, co-workers connected on social media should consider setting up specific groups to share certain information with when posting, to share with an audience that shares the same views or to share with a close group of friends. If your platform does not allow this function, we should encourage associates to think about professionalism and how they want to be perceived in the workplace (and in the world – your digital footprint will follow you forever!). Do employees want to be taken seriously, work well with others and be a contributing team member? Then mindful posting and possibly filtering information shared would be advised.

Of course social media is considered “your voice” … so why, you ask, should we have to employ a filter? Just think about how you feel when you think someone else shares damaging, hurtful or one-sided information when you somehow identify with the opposite view. This bus usually travels on a two-way street, and there are times people could be feeling the same thing from you. Sharing more benign, thoughtful and universal information helps prevent this and can assist with keeping the peace in the office. Limiting your posts about a topic are also helpful – some get carried away and post several times a day about the same viewpoint, which can actually lessen a message anyway due to overexposure.


This comes into play specifically when people share such opposite or one-sided viewpoints that they can be seen by the “rival” group as extreme or caustic (when, in fact, someone from this other group may be doing the same thing from the opposite extreme, which results in both sides feeling the pain). These “one-sided” individuals tend to generalize and may, purposely or inadvertently, attack an entire group of people when trying to prove a point. This may occur even though all people in that group (or even people in the middle) may not share some of the viewpoints associated with the generalized rant.

Attacking can come in the form of name calling, condescending, bullying or making fun of individuals or a group. A post that feels like an attack to one person may have been as helpful by the person giving the information, because when they are so passionate about their viewpoint they put it out forcefully in an attempt to educate or convince others of its importance, certain of their message. Unfortunately, most of us have never seen anyone won over by these types of posts that poke fun of other people. It just serves to alienate others, sometimes even those who are in the same camp. When people feel “attacked,” the intent of the poster may not even realize the energy conveyed with their post. In some cases, they were just trying to be funny. Not everyone sees it that way though. Then you wonder if you run into a situation where someone ends up feeling harassed for differences, which could get you into legal hot water.

Attacking is particularly dangerous to a work culture. It causes people to not want to cooperate or work together, and often breeds discontent and disrespect. In the case of a supervisor being “friends” with employees on social media, if a leader’s posts appear to attack a certain group of people (voting affiliation, candidate supporters, belief holders, etc.), any subordinates in that group could feel their job is threatened back in the office if they don’t subscribe to the same viewpoint, even if it’s not. It’s all about perception.


This happens in schools, too. I have spoken with students who held opposing views and were afraid to say anything for fear of repercussion from their teacher. Children’s viewpoints often come from their parents, so parents out there should be aware of the things they say about candidates and issues, noting that the impression is being made on young minds and the way they communicate in the world. This is sometimes the beginning of bullying among children in schools, when children debate who is best on the playground. Wouldn’t you rather they just play as planned instead of argue?

Raise open, intelligent, tolerant minds who will move well together in the world. They are our future, and teaching them that differing values can help provide balance is useful. Specifying to them that it’s good for people to hold different views, but that we should all respect one another and work together well regardless of differences is the key to success.


To prevent divisiveness and a lack of teamwork, everyone should consider what type of information they share and how they share it. This is primarily a Relationship Management issue, but it requires a high degree of Self-Awareness and Self-Management in order to execute effectively.

Why should you care? Shouldn’t you be able to share whatever you want, whenever you want? Of course … your social media platforms are your voice to freely express yourself. Just realize there could be some repercussions to that, especially when you are connected with others in the workplace. Others can and will view you differently based on what you disclose about yourself and your life, opinions, actions and activities. Consider privacy standards and connections as you navigate your positive EQ pathway.

From an Emotional Intelligence standpoint, it would behoove you to pay attention to how people make you feel. We are a diverse country with many different viewpoints, backgrounds, races, religions, national origins, etc. It is one of the best thing about living in these United States of America.

It is important that we come together and work to accept one another, even at times when that may feel tumultuous to some and individuals do not appear to understand one another. I have seen some unfriending going on in the cases where there was such a value mismatch that people can’t imagine themselves staying connected. That ended up being a good solution for some if they needed to not be connected with people they weren’t really friends with anyway.

But just think … if some of those people also worked together, what then? De-friending can lead to divisiveness spreading into the office, and it can then breed gossip. That is not a good scenario for your company, and productivity and cooperation will go down.

Be mindful of your actions, and realize there are certain helpful tools that allow you to hide updates from people so you don’t even see them. Or I like to think of Dory in “Finding Nemo,” and how she always said, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!”

In this scenario, every time you see the familiar poster you have no desire to read come across your timeline, you can simply tell yourself, “Just keep scrolling! Just keep scrolling!”


Ultimately it comes down to the thought I saw on a recent meme, regardless of your viewpoint: “Be a nice human.”

When you have a goal of treating everyone with kindness, compassion and tolerance, wanting to be an example rather than operate on a need to prove a point, the rest of it fades into the background.

Look for the common ground with others, not the differences. That is where we find our connection and are truly united.

Wishing you all a safe, happy, productive and healthy New Year!


If you are posting on LinkedIn, that is a business social networking site. Posts there should definitely have a professional tone, and not a personal one. 🙂


Donald Trump’s Lack of Emotional Intelligence

And Why This Spells Big Trouble for Our Nation.


Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

This is not a politically motivated post … it is about human decency, Civil Rights and treating one another with respect and tolerance. My Emotional Intelligence certification, marketing experience and fair housing background from my many years in the multifamily housing industry have me looking at this candidacy from a variety of angles.

I am no longer associated with a political party so that I may vote for candidates and issues of my choosing. There are things on each side of the fence that make sense to me, so not aligning with either side finally seemed to be the best fit for me (unfortunately, independent voters are not allowed to vote in primary elections in some states, yet interestingly Gallup reports that as of January 2015 a new record of 43% of voters in the U.S. are political independents — is it time for that primary election process to be updated, given those numbers?).

Even when registered with a party, I voted for the candidate I felt would make the best decisions for issues that were most important to me. As such, I would like to see Congress be more bi-partisan in their actions in order to accomplish more things for our citizens as opposed to meeting the goals of big money and huge corporations that push their own agenda and money into politics via PACs and SuperPACs. Too much money in politics does not encourage politicians to vote on behalf of the people. I believe this is how both Trump and Sanders are working to differentiate themselves, by attempting to buck the system. I agree … it could use a little bucking!

As I consider all of the candidates for the upcoming Presidential election, I find one thing continues to stand out to me that genuinely concerns me as he maintains a level of popularity among a sizable group of voters: Donald Trump has a blatantly obvious lack of Emotional Intelligence, yet he continues to maintain his numbers. His Self-Management and Relationship Management skills are horrendous and, in my opinion, have the potential to be very dangerous to our country and to our foreign policy efforts. So why have people been flocking to him?

What’s the Draw?

“The Donald” definitely has name recognition. He truly can be entertaining. Watching him in reality actually reminds me of watching an SNL version of him, only it is actually real – it’s him! He is like a caricature of himself. Sometimes he really can be funny, although oftentimes he will use targeted, demeaning humor to make fun of and attack his rivals personally (as opposed to attacking their politics), including pointing out what he perceives as flaws in their physical characteristics, looks, etc. This, friends, is what we refer to as “bullying.”

The idea of having someone as President of the United States of America who pointedly makes fun of other people is not someone who would be a good role model for our youth – we already have enough problems with bullying in schools without them witnessing it from leaders they should be looking to as an example.

Many people are drawn to Trump because he has had success in business. I understand that, as I have often thought it would be good to have a successful businessman at the helm who was not tied to the corporate interests of America. Some of his supporters like that he will speak his mind and he doesn’t sugar coat things. Being frank is one thing; being rude, arrogant and condescending is another.

“I’m going to make America great again,” he boasts in his typically braggadocios manner. I happen to think America is already pretty great, yet of course there are many things our elected officials could always work together better on to improve. I am actually in line with him when he talks about jobs being taken out of the United States that could or should be done here – we have a lot of people here who need work – and we obviously do have to get our illegal immigration issues under control.

When I look at things from a marketing perspective, I am very mindful of the fact that Trump is always selling himself and his brand. He has spent years and years building the Trump brand (I have even wondered if this campaign weren’t just about furthering that goal). I have stayed at Trump Tower in New York City, and it was indeed a fantastic stay. He definitely has the branding aspect down. I also believe in the power of real estate, which is part of his business that attracts many.

What’s the Problem?

What we have seen many times through this campaign process, however, is that while he is building himself and his brand up, he is often tearing someone else down with personal attacks and insults in the process. What is particularly of concern to me is that when these verbal assaults are directed at a specific group of people, he is inciting hate and bigotry across the United States.

“These aren’t the best and the finest,” Trump said about people coming over from Mexico. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

We do have a problem with illegal immigration. But we also have a plethora of wonderful, hard working individuals from other countries who are diligently trying to LEGALLY immigrate to the United States, which happens to include many truly “good people” from Mexico. I have had friends from Mexico, Great Britain, New Zealand and France detail for me the immigration process they went through, including the interviews and many dollars involved (it’s expensive to get legal assistance in that process!), and I have watched these people do things the right way. Trump belittles these people and others like them when he categorizes immigrants as “problems.”

What does it feel like to be a Mexican American (someone born or living in the United States as a U.S. citizen who happens to be of Hispanic heritage; a child of immigrants from recent generations) and hear this type of messaging from Trump about Mexican immigrants? People were very upset after hearing Trump’s speech. A 24-year old named Carmen posted a video in responsecomforted by the actions her mom took in giving her actual facts about immigrants. She cited that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than those who are native born Americans, and that immigrants start small businesses at more than twice the rate as those who are U.S. born.

Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor of California, put together a video detailing the costs involved in Trump’s plans to deal with illegal immigrants via deportation, including estimates from a Conservative think tank saying that it would cost our nation over $400 Billion. He says that subsequent loss of half of our farm workers and 6% of our work force would set our economy into a downward spiral, ultimately costing our economy over $1.6 Trillion and putting us in a place worse than the Great Recession. When putting it into Trump-like language, Newsom said, “His plan is a loser.”

The Outcome of Negative Rhetoric

When Trump makes sweeping negative statements about an entire nationality or religion, such as when he said all Muslim travel should be banned and no Muslims should be allowed to enter our nation, it goes against the very principles that formed our nation. We are, after all, a nation formed of immigrants. Many of our Muslim Americans (U.S. citizens who happen to practice the religion of Islam, per our country’s freedom to practice the religion of our choice) have relatives out of the country. Such negative, targeted statements that are all-encompassing demean everyone in the group he is addressing, despite the fact that the people he is really targeting in this situation are those Islam extremists who are terrorists. This is certainly not all Muslims, and demands like this incite fear within our Muslim American communities and can create bullying situations against young Muslim American children as well.

When Oprah Winfrey asked Malala Yousafzai – author of I Am Malala, focus of the documentary He Named Me Malala, and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner at age 17 for advocating for all students to have the right to education (she was shot in the face by the Taliban in 2012 in Pakistan for speaking up for girls’ right to education) – on OWN’s Super Soul Sunday what it meant to her to be a Muslim woman, she replied, “For me, being Muslim means to be peaceful. To be kind, to always think about others, and to always think that how the one action you take can affect other people’s life.”

She believes the characteristic of Islam which she tries to embody is peace. Making broad statements that lump everyone of a certain nationality, race, religion, etc. encourages a hateful rhetoric across the nation and incites bad treatment among some of his followers against people in those groups, as we have seen evidenced at some of his rallies.

After insulting a group, you’ll later find him saying they are “tremendous people” and he has a “great relationship” with them, perhaps trying to gloss over his prior negative statements. But it doesn’t negate what was said, and he doesn’t apologize. He easily calls people stupid, then says he gets along with everyone. Not only has he spoken badly of Mexicans and defamed Muslims, he has also offended women, reporters, breastfeeding mothers, overweight people,and handicapped individuals among others … I had a friend tell me just yesterday that she paid to attend a conference 10 years ago where Trump was speaking, and walked out because his statements were so condescending toward women.

I teach Fair Housing within the multifamily industry, and cover the history of housing discrimination in my leasing training classes, discussing how important it is for people from all backgrounds to be welcomed into a community. We have come a long way since the Civil Rights movement, yet race continues to be an incendiary issue. This is evidenced by attempts in recent years to show a systemic race problem, including how prevalent instances of police misconduct have been against African Americans with the rise of the #blacklivesmatter campaign. So when the former head of the Ku Klux Klan endorses Trump, you have to realize we have a reason to be concerned as he encourages his followers to join forces with Trump’s supporters.

“Go in there, you’re gonna meet people who are going to have the same kind of mindset that you have,” Duke said Wednesday on the David Duke Radio Program, as first reported by Buzzfeed, reasoning that “voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage.”

Houston, we SERIOUSLY have a problem here!!

Some of the Disparities

After Trump won three states on Super Tuesday, John Oliver of Last Week Tonight took on the many disparities of Donald Trump and his campaign – if you want an amusing yet informative look at these, turn up the volume and check out John’s take on things (warning – some adult language included). In this, he takes a closer look at people’s reasons for supporting him: 1. He tells it like it is … yet evidence show he has made frequent opposite statements or untruths; 2. He is independent, has financed his campaign and is not financially beholden to anyone … yet he has not personally spent $20-25 million – he has loaned himself $17.5 million in campaign funds, which can be paid back by the campaign, and he has received $7.5 million in individual contributions. 3. He’s tough … yet has to try to show that he’s right when he is sensitive about something. 4. His success … while he has made a lot of money, he has also lost a huge amount with his multiple bankruptcies.

He also is sue-happy. Oliver shows that during a deposition, Trump explained that his net worth changes based on his feelings. That tells me that his EQ (or lack thereof) is part of what has gotten him in financial trouble in the past. I think it’s safe to say that the same thing could happen if he were dealing with our country’s budget.

EQ Skills and Policy Issues

You’ll often see Trump in an interview situation where he will reply to someone making a point, “You’re wrong,” continually interrupting the person in order to prove he is right. During these frequent interruptions, he will at least occasionally say “Excuse me – excuse me” as he interrupts several times in a row … yet the point is that he is frequently interrupting, which means he is not present in the moment or the conversation. This means he is not truly listening to the other person. He is thinking of how he can respond so that he can be right or position himself in the best possible light. This shows very poor Relationship Management skills, which is definitely a concern for me when I think about his potential involvement in foreign policy matters and interaction with other world leaders.

An election really should come down to policy matters and running the country. If you look at the Republican debate that happened on FOX March 3, 2016, it was a bit of a circus. To weigh in on where candidates stood with regard to policy issues, Donald Trump scored second lowest in discussion about economic policy, and was lowest with regard to both foreign policy and domestic policy, according to Bloomberg. John Kasich was actually the candidate that turned in really solid numbers for all three areas that night. It is unsettling how much Trump doesn’t address with regard to actual policy matters. Feeling confident in a potential candidate should involve that candidate having a wide range of knowledge and plans for all of these areas.

What is Needed

Basically, here’s the deal for me … When I think of who I want as Commander-in-Chief for our country, it is someone I would feel confident could handle himself/herself well in Foreign Policy negotiations; someone who will thoughtfully consider and weigh options prior to making an incredibly difficult decision; someone whose behavior toward others will be a good role model for young children and our nation; someone who will be inclusive, not divisive; and someone who treats others with respect and dignity, even when there is disagreement on the table.

Most importantly though, it essentially boils down to what President Obama stated at a recent press conference. He said he voters will be looking at, “Whoever’s standing where I’m standing right now has the nuclear codes with them, and can order 21 year-olds into a firefight.”

A sobering thought. I want someone who will remain cool-headed with access to that little red button. The President of the United States of America should not be someone who will be impetuous and reactive to situations or conversation. It should not be someone who has a lack of Self-Management skills and treats people unkindly through actions or words.


Trump is so focused on “Winning” … I have a hard time thinking a Presidential candidate is using the same little slogan first brought to light by Charlie Sheen (who, granted, I loved in high school prior to his travels down the prodigal path – come on, it was when he was in Lucas!), given his downturn in recent years. What is both amusing and terrifying is that if you really listen closely in this video, you can really grasp how Trump’s rhetoric sounds like he could actually be your drunk neighbor.

This is the most important job in our nation. It is not a reality TV show. Since Trump gets so much joy from doing it to others, I think it’s about time we tell him, “You’re Fired!”

If a group of 5th graders see things so clearly, why can’t everyone?


(PS – I apologize for my long absence in posting. Ironically, I have been learning about real estate investing. And, no, I will not be running for President once I am controlling my own properties. But I promise to post more frequently again! Thanks for your patience with my absence. I am grateful to The Donald for getting me back to writing!)


Valerie M. Sargent is a dynamic speaker, trainer, consultant and executive coach. A natural and engaging motivator, Valerie is a Level I and Level II TalentSmart Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer and President of Yvette Poole & Associates. She helps individuals and organizations increase their EQ, managing emotions and relationships better on the job for maximum performance. Her signature message, “It’s in the Pause”® focuses on the need for Self-Management skills to preserve positive relationships in the workplace and beyond – follow her blog: For more information:  or

It’s in the Pause ® … the space where Emotional Intelligence happens

pause computer button

Do you ever wish you could turn back time?

That’s silly. Of course you do. At least if you were Cher, I bet you would be thinking pretty seriously about this topic! However, I’m fairly certain that each of us has had at least one moment where we wish we could turn back the clock and do something differently. (Come on, you know you’re not perfect – you’ve had WAY more than one, right?!) While I am not someone who chooses to live with regret over the way things turn out, I think we can all think of a time when we would have preferred that we had reacted better or done something differently.

Yet if that were possible, surely we would be different people than we are today. The events in our lives build and shape us. Good or bad, these experiences turn us into the human beings we are and were meant to be. Luckily, through the beauty of neuroplasticity of the brain, we have the ability to learn and grow, and we can enhance our Emotional Intelligence. When we begin to discover more about it, we can build new habits and make better choices.

This is blog about moments. Moments we notice. Moments where we make different choices. Moments that can change our lives.

While we cannot look back and do things differently, with Self-Awareness there are some things we can control going forward: our actions and reactions to what happens to us. While in some cases we may not be able to reshape the final outcome into what we would like to have happen, we can at least have it be the best possible circumstances around that scenario because we managed ourselves better in the moment.

Simply remember that the key to making better choices and preserving relationships is this – It’s in the Pause.®

Valerie M. Sargent is a dynamic speaker, trainer, consultant and executive coach. A natural and engaging motivator, Valerie is a Level I and Level II TalentSmart Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer and President of Yvette Poole & Associates. She helps individuals and organizations increase their EQ, managing emotions and relationships better on the job for maximum performance. Her signature message, “It’s in the Pause”® focuses on the need for Self-Management skills to preserve positive relationships in the workplace and beyond – follow her blog: For more information:  or