Yes, I mean that literally.
The politicization of everything has got to stop.
You can’t help but notice how polarized politics have become everywhere.
But what I did not expect or realize was how much that polarization has seeped into regular business communication.
Not until today.
Today, I received in my email a lengthy political message and call to action from the leader of a business that provides services we have used previously.
Presumably, because we had used their services before, we were subscribed to their email newsletter.
This email message is an official correspondence from the business, written personally by its leader.
That’s not uncommon.
In fact, during the pandemic, we have seen an increasing number of email correspondences from business leaders.
What’s unusual to me is the apparent political anger and view shared with clients and potential clients.
This email crossed a line in business communications.
To be clear, I am fine with supporting a cause or fighting for a right. If you care about poverty or “Black Lives Matter,” or any other purposeful cause you back, I am okay with that.
I am not okay with your views on candidate selection or how to vote. That is your political opinion, not a cause!
Hey, I get it that you think your political opinion is righteous.
That’s okay. Just remember that in politics, the other side thinks the same too.
My standard on what’s acceptable business communications to me is quite simple:
It does not matter to me whether you are on the right or you are on the left, for Brexit or against Brexit.
I don’t ask suppliers about their politics when making decisions on where to buy.
Don’t ask me about my politics if you want to sell to me!
Most importantly, if you want to keep me as a customer, do not ever impose your political choices or opinions on me with any business correspondence!
Some friends asked me to include the email, but I decided not to since the specific content is only tangential to the point I am making.
This article was first written before the George Floyd tragedy.
I have written about my education on the topic of police violence and racism in America separately.
Since then, the plea of this piece has become more urgent.
I have received so many bad business communications that I thought it would be helpful to be more specific and provide some guidance.
Political opinion is free speech.
We want dialogue.
A diversity of political opinion should be encouraged among your employees.
And, yes I mean you really need to listen to all views, especially the opposing views.
Political opinion is not the same as a cause.
I received an email from a socially conscious firm that describes themselves as “A mostly white company, nestled in the historically non-inclusive outdoors and photography industries”.
They chose to highlight the story of a black veteran expert fly fisher and his experiences with racism in the wild.
They are supporting a cause.
No opinions, just a customer experience.
No call to action on who I should vote for to fix the problem.
Moreover, it fits within the context of their business.
Political opinion is ok if your business is politics.
I can understand that if a business sells t-shirts supporting Biden or Trump then their political opinion is their business.
And, if I sign up for the newsletter from that business I will get a political opinion.
Political opinion in non-political business communications is chaos!
Remember the free speech point above?
Therein lies the rub.
In order to be fair, you must let every employee opinion be heard.
Now let’s imagine the salesperson has one political opinion on who you should vote for and adds that to their business correspondence.
The marketing person has an opposing view and communicates their view with customers.
Or maybe the business owner decides?
For public companies, shareholders will have votes on what the official political opinion should be allowed?
See where this is going?
I didn’t sign up for your political opinion
When I signed up for your newsletter, I was interested in news about your products and services.
I did not give you permission to send me your political opinion!
An outstanding example
Here is a great example from Coursera.
No opinions, just facts.
And they provide some useful next steps, that fit within the context of their business.