Just Say No to ObamcCaintalk

Bosses should view political water-cooler chats as land mines and find a detour.


It is hard to remain neutral when everyone is talking presidential politics and taking sides. But if you lead or manage anyone at work, my advice is: Be like Switzerland. Stay neutral, keep your PIN number safe, and carry a funny-looking little knife.

Conversations around the water cooler start off informative and may even be helpful to new voters. Some people want to know about the issues and how positions taken by the candidates will help or hinder. Fine and good.

But there is just something about politics that degrades goodwill fast. Open-mindedness hits the road. We exaggerate, generalize, and personalize. Feelings get hurt. I once heard a boss—who would NEVER EVER say anything remotely sexist, homophobic, or racist—say "You're an idiot!" because he was righteously indignant about the political views of a subordinate.

I understand that bosses can't go around the workplace and tell people NOT to talk politics. "They" can talk about politics. "You" shouldn't.

Three reasons why:

Winners and losers. By aligning yourself with one candidate, you are picking the "winners" in your company or department and not by their talent, results, or skill. This is a bad thing.

It won't help your business. For every customer or vendor that shares your views, another one doesn't. Why lose business so easily?

Don't underestimate your power. Bosses influence behavior in subtle, unintended ways. Why waste this power on something nonproductive?

But please, go vote. Just don't tell me who for.

G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig and his blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com or at JobDig.com.

corporate culture
2008 presidential election

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