This column is being written in the blind before the mid-term elections. It is not about Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. It is about the politicization of our culture in the workplace. The political polarization in the U.S. coupled with the oversized egos of business executives is a bad formula for motivating and retaining employees. There is little doubt that there are many companies that have lost good employees because the boss tried to push his or her political views on them.
Let's face it: we are all guilty, myself included, of voicing opinions in settings when the paid-for audience of your employees are forced to nod and agree. That's just wrong. One absolute truth that many executives and business owners do not understand is that their personal opinions within the confines of the workplace will rarely be challenged by their employees, and rightfully so.
Politics in the U.S. have become so poisonous and divisive that few have the character to accept others who disagree. Politics have become personal. The mentality of "if you are not with me, you're against me" is eroding the public square. What happened to the America where we celebrated everyone's right to vote and free expression without name calling?
Older Americans constantly lament the ills of social media and how it is poisoning our youth, yet I have seen older executives and business owners post vile videos, memes, and comments on social media about the other political side, which is absolutely abhorrent. The simple act of sharing a tasteless video or meme is just as bad as writing the words yourself. Joining or following online groups that deal in hate or bigotry is not only wrong, it can destroy your reputation. Besides alienating current employees and potential new hires, your are demeaning yourself.
I am not suggesting that executives and business owners are not entitled to exercise their American right of free speech. However, we must understand that this exercise in freedom as a business owner or executive comes with much heavier consequences than for a retired person who doesn't rely on the public for business or on employees to do the work. If you feel inclined to voice your opinion on a candidate or politically sensitive subject, you should at least have the common sense to do so on a platform that is not tied to your business.
During elections, every candidate from tax collector to President wants to stick a political sign on your business property. Understand the country's political views are split almost 50-50, so that political sign can alienate every other customer or employee. Adopting a policy of no political signs on company property is the right thing to do, with no exceptions.
Additionally, politicians may ask for your support, both financially and through endorsements. They want to use your prestige in the community to bolster their credibility. Be careful, as the politician you publicly endorse and give money to today may be the one who is captured on a hidden video recording in a morally compromised position. The broad morality brush can tangle up many innocent bystanders, including you.
If you truly want employee harmony in your business, respect the political views of your employees and set an apolitical culture that encourages political discussion and opinions be kept outside the confines of the business. Don't bring your politics to work; set the tone by remaining silent on political discussions.
With the 2020 election coming up in less than two years, expect political divisions and nastiness to get worse. Before you get all wound up, set your personal political ground rules and learn that silence during a fiery political election might truly be golden for your business.
Tune out the political noise and focus on your company Every moment you spend campaigning for a candidate is less time you have doing business. Be greedy with your time and actually put a dollar value on every hour you spend advocating for some political candidate or cause. If a newscast stirs your emotions to a point at which you can't separate the political from the business; turn it off. For me, turning off talk radio and listening to the Al Green Station on Pandora is a good remedy.