It is hard to find a time in which the political environment in America has been so divisive. For business owners and executives, it is imperative that you set the right tone within your business. How we handle political discourse can make a difference in retaining customers and good employees.
The political opinions and ugliness promoted on social media have gotten to a guttural level in which any semblance of the truth is completely ignored. People are not voting for a candidate because they believe in the platform or find the message inspiring; their support is driven more by the hatred of the other candidate. Some sources predict the difference in vote totals between the presidential candidates this year will be within 4%. In essence, America is a politically divided nation. In other words, the political statements you make will be loved by 50% of your employees and customers and hated by the other 50%. How much are you willing to give up to publicly espouse your support for a particular candidate?
As Americans, we once celebrated political diversity. Today, political discourse leads to hostility. Supporters of a candidate are branded with the perceived faults of their candidate. Someone who supports Donald Trump must be a bigot and a supporter of Hillary Clinton surely must be dishonest. Don’t forget, half the people will actually believe that.
As someone who is politically active, I find it hard to temper my personal beliefs. Fortunately, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that not everyone thinks like me. A person’s support for a particular candidate doesn’t mean that person is smarter or dumber—it means they are free to choose.
I believe in the sanctity of the First Amendment. We cannot tell our employees they can’t discuss politics and we shouldn’t tell them how to vote. It’s their vote. Since social media and other areas are so politically charged, your goal is to make work a politics-free zone.
Here are some steps you can take to encourage a non-political work environment:
- Encourage employees to be respectful of different political views by setting a personal example of tolerance.
- Keep political commentary out of all business related communications. Business is business, not a political forum.
- Advertise in neutral publications and media outlets so that the business is not associated with highly polarizing groups.
- Don’t allow political candidates to put signs or literature on company property.
- As a business owner or executive, be mindful of your social media posts and try to keep your timeline free of political extremes.
- Change the subject when political extremists come into the business with a rant. Don’t forget employees are listening.
If the pundits are correct, the political discourse in America over the next few months promises to be the worst in our lifetime. That should alarm all Americans. We are better than that. I can’t control the hate and ugliness spewed by others, but I can control myself. I have chosen not to participate in this extreme rhetoric.
Not only will I try to keep politics out of my business, I will not allow it to infiltrate my personal life. I have substituted talk radio with the greatest hits of the ’70s, cable news with the Food Network, and the only debate I care about is with my wife about where to go on date night. Whatever happens on Nov 8, rest assured: America will survive.