If social media is a powder keg, traditional media is the gun powder. Bubbling to the top of daily trending news are new allegations of sexual harassment. A Wall Street Journal headline this weekend showed that concerned corporate leaders are initiating much deeper investigations into employee claims and are finding much more than credible complaints about sexual harassment, but also evidence of toxic behavior in the form of bullying. Political tensions at work are at historical highs.
Companies are now even more invested in hiring talent who will be able to operate effectively in a diverse climate, and that means that they are looking for potential biases that can signal intolerance that has the potential to constrain effective collaboration, productivity, and therefore profits. Companies concerned about their employment branding are now trying to institute and enforce clearer standards on exactly what opinions employees are allowed to express about at work AND publicly.
Remember this woman who was fired for giving Trump’s motorcade the finger?
Every company ultimately relies on people to operate and profit, so alienating people is a recipe for failure. This includes employees as well as clients or customers.
I rarely post anything political on my social media. Do I have opinions? Yes, but I also have no interest in battling with people opinion-to-opinion. I may, however, raise awareness on an issue of importance to me. For most issues that impact people, like healthcare, civil rights, taxes, etc., I usually let other people voice their opinions and support them with a “like” or “love,” maybe the occasional “fist bump.” Last week’s news about the potential overturning of the elephant tusk ban inspired my rare action, and it was intended to be very issue-based, just letting people know where to sign the petition. For me, this was about animals who cannot speak for themselves, and not about people.
I thought I was clear that I had no interest in politicizing this, and yet three people commented, and two of them made political comments representing opposing sides, while the 3rd made sure it was known that the overturning of the ban was tabled, which I had also posted the day before. She did not state anything political, but I see what she comments on frequently through my feed, and historically she tends to be very overt in her political views. I appreciated that she was subtle in her comments on my feed.
While I like her personally, I know there are certain subjects we should not broach in our interactions. I’m actually glad to know where she stands and what we shouldn’t talk about, though I’m discouraged that I feel we wouldn’t be able to have an intelligent discussion because of the emotional context of our opinions. I try not to let these differences of opinion separate me from people. I have vastly different political views from many in my family, but I have no intention of letting that interfere with our closeness.
She at least showed some restraint, whereas others seemed to completely disregard my desire to keep this at an issue-level post and keep party out of it. It seemed like a compulsion, and perhaps even a symptom of an addiction. I have grave concerns for many out there who seem to be in the habit of vocalizing their bias, even though it is within their legal right to do so, because employers have equal rights (as of now,) furthermore the responsibility, to hire people they feel will be contributors to, or at least compliant with, an environment free from all types of harassment.
If I was evaluating my friend as a candidate, she would not even be a contender, in spite of her skill level or performance. I would have serious concerns about how her opinion might influence interactions with my customers or other employees, and I am not alone.
Jobvite’s 2017 Social Recruiting Report states that 57% of recruiters see bias as a real problem in the American workforce. That may not seem like a large majority, but imagine that you are now precluding yourself from 57% of the positions for which you are qualified because you choose to exercise your 1st amendment rights and freely express your opinion. 51% of recruiters “gave pause” to consider a candidate who ranted about politics on social media.
Listen – I do not intent to discourage people from using their voice to stand up for what they believe. However, I want people to make an informed, well-evaluated decision to do so – to be aware of potential risks, and to evaluate the methods, as well.
Follow these tips:
- We rarely influence people when we insult them. If you do decide that something is that important that you must use a public platform to make your point, focus on the issue and data.
- Notice in yourself if you have a tendency to post before you think, and consider your habit could be harmful.
- Think about your intention and if any part of it is to induce shame or pain, refrain!