No one has been a louder, more outspoken, or more persistent advocate for getting rid of Donald Trump -- and belatedly ending America's greatest mistake -- than I have for the last many months. Just ask my editor. I've tried not to dwell on the increasingly sad and corrupt political situation, aside from the occasional snide reference to the Liar-in-Chief, to focus on "business" concerns -- as if they fit separately into their own neat little box.
Given the disruptive and corrosive ways in which the Trump presidency has leached like an acid into every aspect of our lives and businesses, it was always a difficult stretch for me to pretend that you could talk about business issues, concerns and strategies (especially startups) without acknowledging and reacting to the elephant in the room. I reference Trump's babes, buddies, braggarts, and BS artists who are actively challenging and poisoning just about everything in our democracy. I miss the America in which otherwise reasonable and fair-minded people could agree or disagree on issues without screaming, threatening or slandering their friends and neighbors.
For all the talk about post-election, post-pandemic recovery plans, we can't ignore the invective that Trump has spread to every business in the country. It's now become a management problem: how do we move business ahead when everyone is still seething.
Maybe you remember the Michael Jordan rule from the good old days, which reminded everyone that even conservatives buy sneakers and that the best politics for prominent sports figures was no politics at all. We've recently witnessed just how radically that position has changed across the board for the players, the leagues and owners. Silence may once have been golden, but, in the big leagues, superstars such as LeBron James have taken the "shut up and dribble" bozos to the hoop with their forceful and effective advocacy.
Likewise, we've seen corporations, organizations, institutions and even universities having to speak up and also enable and encourage frank and open conversations among their own people about social and political issues. Like it or not -- and blame social media if you wish -- today everyone's got an opinion about everything and everyone feels, not just the right, but the obligation to share it with the whole world whether we want to hear it or not. The problem for businesses arises when it's your people "sharing" and occasionally confronting your customers, which is a guaranteed mess.
Navigating the need to both speak up and shut up requires no small amount of dexterity. In prior columns I tried to address how we could help our own team members deal with some of the social symptoms and unrest without discussing the obvious causes. But eventually biting your tongue too often and too hard draws blood. Turning a blind eye to continual lies and increasing perversity and corruption is a great way to lose your own way, a horrible message for your business's stakeholders, and an awful example for our kids. While silence may be the most perfect expression of scorn in some cases, in other instances, you need to speak up.
In part, because there will always be ignorant, oblivious or self-serving people who will tell the world, for example, that the earth is flat or that there's really no good reason you can't have screen doors in submarines. You just have to be prepared to suffer the consequences and be willing as well to clean up the mess while the boat (or the ship of state) slowly sinks into the sea. Of course, we never imagined that there could be a sewer or a swamp with absolutely no bottom or just how low some people (and their enablers) could bring themselves and our government in pursuit of power, notoriety, personal gain and revenge.
None of this, of course, is how smart entrepreneurs operate - we're doers, not cheaters and whiners, and we understand that telling the truth, living up to your commitments and promises, and putting your people and your customers first is the heart of business building and success. Hopefully, we're only a few painful and still scary weeks away from the "official" end of this national nightmare. But, make no mistake, the political and psychic damage and the many other problems caused by the "brute" of all evil and his family and miserable minions aren't going away anytime soon. We're all going to have to deal with their slimy residue in our own businesses as the losers grudgingly sulk and slink off. I've previously addressed the post-pandemic and vaccination issues, but there's another important inter-personal concern that you'll need to address with your team.
Which is the need, thank you very much, for them to temper their words at work. This won't be an easy chat especially with your "enlightened, entitled, and emancipated" younger employees. Although it's difficult for me to explain or understand, close to half of the electorate voted for the Republican ticket. They may have held their noses in voting for Trump, but otherwise they were very clear on their political philosophies and their overall down ballot preferences. They aren't going away. And they certainly aren't embarrassed or ashamed by their votes. When the dust finally settles, it's going to be clear that, notwithstanding all the noise made about huge Democratic edges and concentrations in major cities, there were very substantial numbers of Republican voters in almost every state and across every state. The pain and passions of this past election were everywhere.
This means that these folks are likely to be a substantial portion of your everyday customers, clients, vendors and, most importantly, some of your employees. Or even you. (Don't get me started on family members.) Your younger employees especially tend to live in their own bubbles and social echo chambers and may not appreciate how widely diverse the viewpoints of your customers may be or frankly what your own politics may be. Whether you regard the losing side as desperate or deluded, these voters really are true believers. When they voted their pocketbooks or their prejudices or simply their fears, they were sincere. It doesn't pay any longer to get upset or angry with them, because the election is over. Going forward, it's important for your people to make peace with these folks rather than argue with or try to lecture them. Whether it's good politics or not, it's certainly good business.
And it's critical that your employees quickly come to understand these facts of life and also know that whether or not these customers and clients talk about it, they continue to have strong feelings about the allegedly disputed outcome. All of these parties will need to be properly and carefully attended to going forward. You can talk to your team about this, but the best and shortest solution is to simply instruct them not to talk about the election at work at all, with anyone. This isn't the moment for them to fly the freedom of speech banners and "tell their truths." Mistakes and oversights are simply too easy to make in these tense and hyper-critical times. This isn't the easiest message to give to anyone today, but it's the smartest thing you can do for your business.
Bottom line: No griping, no gloating, or complaining; the less said about the election results, the better. Let bygones be bygones and get on with your business which has plenty of other things to contend with right now. The best and most effective answer in tough times is often silence.