Your Job and Your Politics: Keep Them Separate

Originally published on April 15, 2015 as an Editor's Pick on LinkedIn.

Presidential election season is heavily upon us with wall-to-wall debates and media coverage.  There are 5 months to Election Day, and nearly 20 candidates have sought your support for their runs to the White House in January 2017.

And if you’re like me, you’ve got an opinion on all of them. You probably also love or hate the politics of the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.   And if you’re even a little bit like me, you may also have a big mouth.

So here’s the question:  Should your professional career and your political opinions mix?

No.  In case you missed that, here it is again:

HELL. NO.

Much like your employer is prohibited (legally and by the laws of common-sense) from unduly influencing you or pressuring you to vote for (or support) a particular candidate or party, it’s also smart business for you to keep your political ranting, raging, opinions and campaigning limited to your friends and family, and under wraps when at work.

  • That means you should leave your “Change ’08” earrings at home – and cover up your Ronald Reagan tattoo when you head to the office.
  • And when you post your anti-Keystone blog from your couch, maybe limit your audience to your spouse and your mother – and you may want to take down that “Don’t Tread On Me” flag in your office, too.

While I don’t know if anyone from the ACLU or the Tea Party Patriots is among my LinkedIn followers, I can already hear the noise about individual rights, liberty and free speech.

But I’m not writing this from the perspective of your rights or your liberty (and what you’re allowed to do under the law).  I’m writing this because it’s your job we’re talking about.  Your career.  Your livelihood.  Your paycheck.  Your family’s meal ticket.  I’m writing this from the perspective of common sense.

  • Sharing your Obama rants with co-workers and clients – is a flat-out horrible decision.
  • Cajoling your fellow-empoyees to support Rick Santorum is a terrible idea.   T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E.
  • And wearing your “Feel The Bern” t-shirt on casual Friday is just bad, bad taste.

And all of it is solidly in the danger zone on the career-damage-o-meter.

Yes, California, Colorado, New York, North Dakota and Washington, DC all have laws in place that make it tough for your employer to discriminate against you professionally because of your political activity or beliefs at (or away from) work (unless your rantings are disrupting business).

But the legality of you being politically active at work is not my point.  What we’re talking about here is:  Is it SMART to do it?  (please see above for that answer)

Being a big-mouth about politics (candidates and elections) at work can be a silent killer.  It will quietly (or loudly) frame opinions about you among co-workers, executives and subordinates.  It will limit your opportunities.  It will label you.  It will cost you.  I realize many may not agree with that.  And even more people might not like it, but it’s true:  When it comes to your personal life and opinions at work, less is more.

So, whether you’re in the far left wing of the Liberal Movement – or if you’re in the right’s Conservative Camp (or somewhere between the two), leave it at home.   All of it.

And remember, the Inter-web makes an opinion exponentially bigger than it actually is.  Which means we must know our entire audience before we post politics or pictures, and before we open up with political rhetoric at work (this is also smart behavior that will be a big benefit in future job hunting as well).

In short, the company water cooler is a great place for catching up on last night’s sports, the Kardashians (I’m sorry. Really.), and talking about actual local/national/global/intergalactic news.  Or (novel idea) – even work.

But it’s definitely no place for your political opinions.  It’s just not worth it.

Bruce Martin
About the author: 

Bruce Martin is the President of Broad & Pattison, Inc., the leading management recruiting and executive search firm serving the U.S. automotive industry.  His career includes executive assignments with DaimlerChrysler, GE Capital and Adecco, NA.

Mr. Martin is a member of the Board of Directors for Community Career Center, a NFP based in Naperville, IL.  Follow Bruce on Twitter and LinkedIn