Online Etiquette – Mixing Politics and Business

Here we go again, another election year…

Election years can be dangerous times for business owners that have strong political views and little self-control. Especially for those who force those views down the throats of their customers, employees, and peers. While I feel that it’s commendable for anyone to be passionate about their convictions and views (I know I am), there is a proper time and place to voice those views. Email makes it painfully easy for anyone to instantly forward a political view, comment, article, video link, etc. in the blink of an eye, automatically alienating at least HALF of the people that they are sent to. Recently, a local business owner did just that when they sent me a politically-charged email.

More after the jump.

The email that I received was one of those typical hysterical emails where the sender insisted all who received it then send it on to their friends and family. Obviously, I can’t get into what the email contained, but it was 180 degrees from my own personal viewpoint. The sender is a business owner that should know better. Another problem is, the business owner used my email address in the “TO” field, along with a bunch of other local business owners that know me personally. This makes it appear that I might share the same viewpoint as the sender does, which makes it even more inappropriate that it was sent it in the first place.

In the workplace, there are those common four taboo subjects that shouldn’t ever be discussed in detail; sex, money, religion, and politics. Recently, at a party, my wife and I were talking about schools that my wife and I prefer for our kids, and I would add school choice to that list of taboo subjects as well (a school principal was at the party – lesson learned).

I would add that you should never assume that people you speak with are being honest with you about their true political views. I personally know someone who is a staunch supporter of one political party, yet I have witnessed some of his peers speak to him assuming that he is a member of another party. And he is smart enough to let them believe what they want and just smile while they are talking to him. He knows that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is probably the best policy during an election year if you don’t want to alienate customers and peers.

Political lawn signs and car stickers are another no-no for business owners for the same reasons. I’ve made that mistake years ago in previous elections myself. This year’s election is sure to be electric, and hotly debated. Get out there and vote, and let your vote do the talking. Sending a politically-charged email, making a politically charged comment, or sparring with those that you don’t agree with will surely cause damage to your company and your reputation that will last long after the November elections. Just be careful out there.

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