Politics and Business Don’t Mix

It’s an election year and now is the right time to remind your staff that business and politics don’t mix!  You’ve already stressed the importance of treating all customers equally regardless of race, gender – even sexual orientation.  What about political affiliations?  If you disagree with someone’s personal beliefs, does that give you the right to treat them poorly?

The internet and social media  is buzzing with the story of how conservative talk show host, Glenn Beck was treated on an American Airlines flight.  This isn’t about what you personally may think of Mr. Beck’s opinions – it’s about whether EVERY customer deserves to be treated the same.  It wasn’t just on the flight that he and his family were treated in hateful manners.  MANY businesses had employees who were openly hostile to the Becks.   Would this have happened in YOUR place of business?

If you disagree with Mr. Beck’s politics, maybe you think he had it coming.  Would you feel the same way if Jesse Jackson had been treated this way?  What about Anderson Cooper?  Discrimination is wrong regardless of whether it is on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or political views.  Whether customers or fellow employees – everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

When I was a business owner, we routinely reminded team members that every customer was valuable.  We treated with respect customers of all kinds, same sex couples, mixed race couples, those of different religions, overweight customers, seemingly poor – you name it.  We let them know that while they are welcome to their personal views, when they put on our company name tag they become the representative of the company and our company treats all customers equally.  Have you done the same?  If you have not done so specifically – to include differences of opinion then you are complicit in the actions of your employees!

Our dinner party invitations always had a single line “No Politics Please”.  Several of my friends have expressed an interest in having a “Hide political posts” button on social media in order to still have friends when the election is over.  Politics have always inspired passions.  Take this opportunity to remind your team that politics and business don’t mix!

American Airlines is now having to do public relations damage control.  This airline that welcomes uniformed service members to board first – often to the applause of other travelers is having to defend and repair its American values image.  Make no mistake, Glenn Beck took to the airwaves and social media (over 500,000 Twitter followers) to share his experience.  Even if your customers don’t have a huge, national radio audience, they still share their experiences with their circles.

Use this example and headline to serve as a teaching moment for your employees.  Encourage your team to strive to be like the young lady at the Chick-fil-A drive thru window rather than like the flight attendant on the American Airlines flight with Mr. Beck.

Part of what makes America a great place to live, work and run a business is our tolerance for those different from ourselves.  Let’s take a moment to remind everyone that this tolerance needs to extend to differences of POLITICAL beliefs and opinions as much as it does every other form of difference.

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