Politics Doesn’t Belong in Your Small Business

You can’t escape it.  Presidential politics is daily headlines news.  It’s also a popular topic of conversation.  My husband and I ate dinner last night in a neighborhood restaurant and the people at the table next to us were in a heated debate over who would be the next President.  And it’s only going to get worse.
Nearly everyone has an opinion when it comes to politics.  And in many cases people are as impassioned about their political beliefs are as they are about their religious beliefs.  The freedom to discuss both politics and religion openly and without fear of repercussion is what makes this country great.  However, there is a time and a place for everything and it’s best to check both politics and religion at the door when you come to work.

Local, state and national elections can stir passions and create conflict among your employees or hard-feelings with customers.  Political tensions among your team members can damage workplace relationships as well as impact employee performance and productivity.  Worse case, you might lose good employees and even customers.  To minimize potential problems, many small businesses have created policies to keep partisan politics out of the office.  Here are some things to consider for your small business.

Limit political signage.  It’s a good idea to limit political signage and other paraphernalia.  You shouldn’t post signs or wear political buttons as it might offend a co-worker and/or customer.  Keep in mind, because political loyalties run deep, co-workers and/or customers may actually make judgments about you because of your political views.  For example, if you support an opposing party or candidate, they might conclude you’re an unethical or untrustworthy person or business.  It’s not fair, but it happens.

Keep Your Loyalties to Yourself.  Never ask a co-worker or a customer who they are supporting.  If someone puts you on the spot, change the subject or explain you don’t feel comfortable responding.  I had coffee with a business associate recently and during the conversation she mentioned a particular presidential candidate for whom she is campaigning.   When I didn’t respond, she opened the door by stating, “Several people have asked me who you are supporting and I told them I didn’t know.”  Without being rude, I explained I was focused on building my business and really wasn’t involved.  Then, I simply changed the subject.

Don’t Pressure Employees.  As the business owner, don’t ask your employees about their political views.   You don’t want them to feel as though you’re pressuring them to support a particular candidate, party or position.  Even the most innocent comment can be misconstrued.

To establish guidelines regarding political activity in your business, get your team involved in the process.   But I strongly suggest you set the ground rules soon before irreparable problems arise.  This political season is definitely heating up.