Do Business and Politics Mix?

Lessons We Have Learned (Maybe)

In the past couple of weeks, we have seen more passion for our political process than many of us can remember seeing and hearing in a long time, if not the most in our lifetime. The beauty is in the big scope of things; we are still seeing many people passionate about what they believe to be “Our America” and we are protected by the very First Amendment of the United States Constitution to express our beliefs freely and openly.

As a business owner or President of a company, you have one goal, which is in your mission statement of core values, and in the bigger scope of things, and regardless of whether you sell widgets or serve people, you must ensure your company is around to support the people who work for the company – growing professionally, getting paid, etc. A decision also must be made towards whether you talk about politics freely with your team, your customers, or your community – and if so – what could be the ramifications if this is not met with the same openness and passion which it was intended. By many accounts, there are three things which should not be talked about in the workplace – religion, sex, and politics, and it may be for good reason.

Business and Politics Blog Cover

In the past week, just after the election, many companies have come under fire for “mixing” business and politics. Take GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney, in his post-election e-mail to his employees. In this e-mail, he ended it with asking those to reply to this e-mail with their resignation if you do not agree with his statement. The e-mail went public, and GrubHub had to spend time re-communicating this message. At a further look, they are a publicly traded company (NYSE: GRUB) and their stock went from almost $39 per share on November 10th, to a low of $34.88 on November 11th – a loss of about 10%, when the broader market was up approximately 1% for the same period.

One can also look at New Balance. They have had some backlash with their support and people have been burning their shoes and vowing to never buy from them again. As a private company, they don’t have shares “in the market” but they do have people who buy their shoes and I am sure they don’t want to lose sales. This challenge exists for all businesses and how “politically active” should they be, if at all.

Of course, if legislation is preventing your company to some degree, of course one can’t remain silent. But in seeing what has been happening the past election, we may need to “think and plan a bit more” in deciding what and how we communicate when a company decides to jump in to the political arena. There is good reason to avoid the big three – religion, sex, and politics – in the workplace – and this past week has made it clear the potential challenges businesses face when mixing in one, of these three.

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