Should your company get political?

Our society is more politically divided than it’s been for quite some time. Rational, respectful discussions have largely been replaced with angry tweets and angrier talking heads. Simple social media posts explode into angry battles in which both sides are so eager to promote their points that they don’t even read what they’re responding to.

As a business owner or manager, you might be tempted to toss your own two cents into the fray, and publicly share your beliefs on political policy, taxes, race relations, climate change, gun ownership, or any of the dozens of fractious issues that only make social media titans wealthier. After all, everyone has a right to her opinion, don’t they?

Yes, but I’d counsel you to stay out of the battle. You may feel strongly that everyone should own a gun, or that humans are to blame for climate problems, or whatever … but you should keep your company neutral. Unless it’s directly involved in one of those controversies, your company should remain apolitical. You should devote your moments in the spotlight to talking about your products, your services, and your wonderful customers … not about whatever the cable news guys are yelling about.

Here’s why: the marketplace is more diverse than you may realize, and odds are that there’s wide disparity among your customer base. As long as you remain neutral, there’s no reason for anyone to get worked up over your positions. But take a public stance, and you’ll see customers quietly fade away because they don’t share your view and don’t want to support it. When they didn’t know you believed in arming bears, they thought you were an okay guy who had an okay company. Now you’re one of those jerks.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe. What I’m saying is that you should keep your personal political beliefs and your company separate. That’s not compromising your morals; it’s just respecting the reality that your customers may have many viewpoints. Putting your beliefs in the public square probably won’t advance the discussion around the issue, but like it or not, it may just put you at a disadvantage. Unless sharing your view dramatically advances your cause, I’d keep it to yourself.