In the past, political discourse was something that rarely extended past water cooler small talk. While it was once the norm for it to be considered an inappropriate discussion, today we have entered an era of corporate activism that has created gray areas in what is accepted and expected.
Customers now want to know the businesses they support are participating in corporate citizenship. Employees are looking to build careers at organizations that align with their personal values. Investors understand the correlation between a company’s longevity and its influence on the world at large. The problem is, the odds are slim to none that the views of every single stakeholder in a company will align.
According to Greg Blatt, a business leader with over two decades of experience in executive management, the traditional view was that politics are personal. A company’s mission should be apolitical, and any deviation from that would inherently inhibit fulfilling that mission. In the course of Blatt’s career he has seen how perception of politics in the office has shifted, having held senior positions in a number of large corporations including Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, IAC, Match Group and Tinder.
In Blatt’s view, if asked confidentially the vast majority of executives in the United States would affirm this view. However, public sentiment has made that an impossibility in the modern era. In particular, the younger generations have inextricably tied politics to their identity, and as they occupy a greater part of the overall workforce this perception will only continue to become more commonplace.
In the highly-charged atmosphere of modern politics even remaining apolitical is seen as a stance, meaning there is truly no position available to an organization free from scrutiny. When refraining from engagement in politics is no longer a viable option, Greg Blatt says leaders must work to ensure they are approaching the problem with the same level of analysis and discipline they would apply to any other business decision.
Maintaining a high-quality level of political discourse is crucial to ensuring decorum is upheld even when politics can no longer be avoided. Just because an issue invokes passion and strong opinions does not mean it should be subject to lower standards of debate. Points must be backed up with factual data, and leaders should also emphasize there are times and places in which discussions will inhibit productivity.
Blatt suggests creating a committee of representatives who meet on a weekly basis to discuss subjects related to culture and politics. This ensures that people feel their voices are being heard while maintaining a structure that encourages even-headed discussion. While talks likely will not always present clear-cut solutions to problems, they will overall satisfy the needs of the company and make for better corporate decision-making.