As we've already seen with PepsiCo, New Balance, and GrubHub, leaders need to be much more mindful about the messages they communicate in this post-truth, new normal world of ours.

The watchword of the day is to watch your words.

Here are 5 things NOT to say or do (unless you intentionally want your product or service to be boycotted):

1.) Say it'll be all right. No one, including the president-elect, has any idea what life will be like after January 20th, so don't make upbeat, cheery predictions that might set up your employees, customers or industry for a mighty fall and erode your credibility.

2.) Use incendiary words such as inclusiveness and diversity. While you may be aghast at even considering such words incendiary, trust me when I say they'll be welcomed by some audiences while touching off a firestorm with others. The same holds true with bigotry and racism. All four words are guaranteed to alienate 50 percent of your various stakeholder groups (see recent election results). Think before speaking.

3.) Share your views on social channels. You may be Alt Right or far left of Bernie Sanders. It doesn't matter. Limit your views to spoken statements in front of family and friends (and even that could earn you a swift kick in the rear). I know one high-profile Hillary supporter who used his channels to advocate on her behalf. Not surprisingly, the grapevine's buzzing with rumors that he's lost significant clients and key employees as a result.

4.) Allow your employees to exhibit their feelings in the workplace. Since we're based in Manhattan with an office in San Francisco, it came as no surprise that November 9th had about as much positive energy as a wake. That's understandable. But, we also employ staunch Republicans who were ignored or ostracized that day. We shut that down immediately for two reasons:

  • It's wrong.
  • It destroys productivity and communication.

5.) Project dejection or ebullience. Employees are gifted when it comes to reading your nonverbals. So, don't skip around the hallways in delight or crawl into a fetal position and hide under your desk.

Now is the time to lead. In fact, I'd argue that leading with empathy and impartiality has never been more important. But, I'd also add caution to the list.

Oh, and by the way, I'm Steve Cody and I approve this column.

Published on: Nov 21, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.