Trump Victory Wasn’t an Upset — A Warning for Business Leaders

Image from an ABC video (

Donald Trump will be the president of the United States of America. All the news networks are calling an upset.


No. Not even close. Here is why. And listen up, business leaders. This is for you. This isn’t a political analysis. It’s an analysis of your organization.

An upset is when all the facts, all the leading indicators say one person or team should win over another, but then the opposite happens.

An upset is not simply when one of your favorites does not win or when the majority hopes one will win but then doesn’t. It may be upsetting to you, but it is not an upset.

Is it shocking? Yes. Even Republicans didn’t think it was going to happen. Unprecedented? Yes. Donald Trump is the first president to never have held office previously. In fact, Politico admitted that they were “laughably oblivious. The entire Washington political-media complex completely missed the mark. Not by inches or feet, but by miles.” But was this an upset? No.

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Why were they so off? It’s because of two reasons.

First is what is called “social desirability bias.” It is when “respondents lie about their voting turnout because they want to appear to be good citizens in the eyes of the interviewer.” (Newsweek)

Second is the “facts.” Over 20 prominent polls said Hillary Clinton was going to win — even up until the day before. Poll after poll — with very few exceptions — predicted a victory for Democrats.

Actually, that’s what we’ve been told and how they’ve phrased it. Let me rephrase that a little more correctly: because of a bias, their analysis of the data said that Hillary was supposed to win. In fact, there is a balance that goes on when a poll is off of what the other polls are, so they do a bit of adjusting. In other words, they said, “Everyone else says one thing, and we are way off. We should adjust.”

“Where did we get it wrong?” “How could we have been so far off the mark?” I have heard the news anchors ask similar questions numerous times over the past week. And the answer keeps coming back: 1) Voters were not honest; 2) our analysis of the data was wrong.

Their analysis of the data did not reflect reality. But we, the consumers of the polls, assumed the producers of the results were correct. The candidates — and the American people — looked to the polls to lead their expectations without realization that what they had relied on was false.

The polls did not reflect reality. So on November 8th the American people did what they were always going to do. And it shocked the world.

Nothing changed. It was going to be that way whether the polls showed that or not.

Now, business leaders, this is for you.

You do an annual or semi-annual survey. You poll your employees. You ask them the same questions over and over. You get a dump of data all at once and usually share the results with your employees. You are then expected to produce results on it.

Having worked with and even interviewed thousands of employees, let me let you in on a little secret that many understand but are unwilling to admit: Much like the latest election polls, the employee surveys don’t often reflect reality. And yet that is what you are basing many of your actions on.

For so many reasons I’ve outlined in other posts and videos, not only is the data skewed, but employees are telling you what you want to hear and the interpretation of the data is not correct. Then the assumptions you create are often false yet you assume they reflect things as they really are — and yet they aren’t.

“So what,” you say? “It’s close enough.” I guarantee Hillary Clinton isn’t saying that right now. Neither is just over half of the American people.

In fact, there are two factors that will soon make the traditional analysis dangerous. It has to do with two employee behavioral trends: Control & Immediacy.

Control & Immediacy

The Millennial generation coming into the workforce (as Baby Boomers quickly and increasingly exit), want control over many aspects of their work and they want results now. Think about it. Mainly because of technology, they have control over just about every aspect of their lives — except work. They get results in every aspect of their lives — except work. How long do you think that will last until they force a change?

Baby Boomers and Gen Xers (for the most part) were not raised that way. They don’t demand that they have control and immediate results. They are accustomed to allowing others to have control and being patient for action and outcome.

How long will it be before the Millennials are the majority and won’t stand for it any more? But here’s your warning, business leader. They aren’t going to tell you. Why? Because you aren’t genuinely asking. Your polls are wrong. They will tell you what you want to hear right now, but do what they want to do. Pretty soon those two realities will diverge. And when they do…

So, what do you do now?

Ask. Sincerely ask. And listen. And give them full results. Don’t hold another town hall that feigns “listening.” Don’t ask another question in an internal online forum and then not do anything about it. They won’t buy it. (To tell you the truth, they never have.)

Ask real questions, not canned scientifically proven questions that mean nothing. Ask with intent to start a discussion, not just to collect data. Ask with a heart. And ask them often — even several times a week. Then give them the real results right away (immediacy). Always let them know that if they don’t like the results, they have the power to act to improve upon them (control). In fact, you even expect them to try to make things better.

Do this and avoid an upset. Understand and embrace reality.

Time for Action

Click here to ask often. Ask with intent to start a discussion, not just to get data.


Thanks for hitting the 💙 if this resonated. It will tell me, “Ya! I want more of this!”


Kevin’s purpose is to help 10 million people love their work. He is an advisor and speaker on creating a thriving company culture, and he is CEO & Cofounder of viaPing, which helps companies ask with real intent.

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