June 28, 2008

Obama–McCain–Obama-McCain What to Do When Politics Hits the Glass Shop

By Paul Bieber

The election is coming and it will be all pervasive in the country, and in your workplace. What’s the impact of allowing your workspace to become politicized? All the answers point to: don’t let it happen. The only role the workplace should play is to encourage and make it easy for all people to register and then vote.

Some companies don’t let any politics in, no buttons worn on employee uniforms, no signs at desks and no tag lines on e-mails. The bigger the firm, the more likely it is to have more restrictive rules. Sounds draconian, but it really isn’t. You don’t want someone wearing your company’s uniform to then place a political ad on your logo. This will upset exactly half of your customer base, unless you know which gentleman will win.

If you don’t provide company shirts or uniforms you have a little less ability to say what buttons can or can’t be worn, but you can insist that anything worn while you are at work needs to be below a certain size, does not contain hate language or obscenities. Avoid bumper stickers on your company trucks, whether for a candidate or an overall position. Put all you want on your personal car. Make all the contributions you want with personal funds, not with company money. When employees who happen to disagree with your position sees that the company has donated to or endorsed a candidate, they will question why they are working hard for you to give money to the campaign they don’t support. Also, exactly half of your customers will ask why they are giving you work, and money, to spend on someone they don’t want elected!

Avoid posters in your storefront window supporting one way or the other. Avoid letting your company name being used in a support ad. Avoid having a meet & greet with a local politician or a representative of a national campaign on your premises.

We all benefit from an active debate and information flow to all people, including your employees. Your workplace however, or during your work time, should not be the time and place for this debate.