Whatever your politics, we can all agree that Donald J. Trump has a genuine talent bordering on genius for getting attention. He has been a showman his entire professional life: a condo/casino builder, commercial pitchman and reality TV star who has effectively adapted reality TV production values to the presidency, keeping even those of us who use standing desks on the edge of our seats.
The problem is he’s too good at this. We have never been this consumed by a sitting president who has used his chief platform — Twitter — to dominate the national conversation. Only it’s less a conversation than a spectator sport between two bitter rivals: an Ohio State vs. Michigan football game where even the economics professors from rival schools have been known to throw punches over a controversial call (or a stray remark impugning the work of Friedrich Hayek, which would usually prompt no more than a withering sneer). It’s all-encompassing.
Mental health therapists report a rise in Americans suffering from “Trump Anxiety Disorder,” which Trump supporters describe as a mental condition that causes people to have an irrational dislike for the president, whereas those opposed to Trump define it as a rational response to his actions, policies and tweets. A more balanced term is Trump Obsession Disorder, which doesn’t care whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or Independent as it indiscriminately afflicts a broad cross-section of the workforce. Employers already have their hands full trying to keep people focused given all the personal issues they bring to work … now this?
Since management won’t want to wade into these political waters, what realistic options are there? You can come at it from several angles and hope it eventually starves the obsession of oxygen — which, to a great degree means less social media. You can promote the positive cognitive/ emotional/health effects of diminished social media activity. Communicating the benefits of a restorative sleep and the need to log off several hours before going to bed may have a small impact. For a more aggressive approach, you can freely distribute copies of Jaron Lanier’s new book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. Similarly, you can implement mindfulness programs or anything that changes the subject.
Your EAP will have to be alert to signs — extreme anxiety/unnatural enthusiasm in the presence of a red baseball hat or a set of golf clubs, or a bizarre attachment/aversion to the walls in your office. Usually, when you’re dealing with an issue, you can turn to a trusted colleague. Here, a trusted colleague is one who likely shares and echoes your politics, which only makes the problem worse. While most know to avoid politics in the office, the tension will invariably prompt a random “MAGA!” or “%$@# Trump!” This will shock people into searching whether they too are at risk of losing it … and remind them that counseling is available.
Trump Obsession will one day slide into Trump Fatigue. Every reality show follows a standard arc, and this administration is no exception: the build, the crisis (or thirty), the decision, the resolution, the dénouement/debrief. After weeks of nonstop drama, the bachelor gets the red rose, and eventually, an emotionally drained nation moves on to the next mass obsession. Eventually.