3 things companies are wrong about politics
“For once, don’t do it. Five days after George Floyd’s murder, Nike released a powerful anti-racism ad. It was not the first time that the sports giant has taken a stand on social justice.
In 2018, “Believe in Something” from Nike. Even if that means sacrificing everything, ”the campaign featured Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49er whose decision to kneel during the national anthem in protest against racism infuriated conservatives.
More and more people, especially the younger generation, want to work for companies like Nike, companies that take a stand on moral and political issues. The frames are less secure. The fallout from those across the aisle is a powerful deterrent. Many fondly recall Milton Friedman’s doctrine that “the only social responsibility of companies is to increase their profits”.
Whether they like it or not, that is no longer an option. The idea that engaging in politics will come at a high price, that neutrality is secure, and that politics must stop when a company enters are powerful but outdated myths. Businesses have every interest in being transparent about their political position.
Myth # 1: Publicly engaging in politics comes at a price
For British Brexiteers, Ralf Speth was an alarmist. On numerous occasions, the former CEO of Jaguar Land Rover has explicitly rejected the idea that cutting ties with Europe would present a world of opportunity. He said: “It will be very, very critical whether we see a hard Brexit or no deal. Businesses will disappear, factories will be closed. There is no way to survive a harsh Brexit for many industries. ”
With Brexit campaign leader Boris Johnson firmly in control as prime minister, public opposition might have seemed reckless. But has the British government punished Jaguar Land Rover? Not really.
In 2019, the company, for example, received a £ 500million loan guarantee as part of a government move to support UK carmakers’ electrification plans and the Prime Minister’s official car is still standing. a Jaguar XJ. Better yet, the lingering public warnings about the economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit from Speth and other CEOs have worked. The final agreement with the European Union included a number of requests from the manufacturers.
In the age of transparency, companies can no longer rely on backroom deals. They are expected to adopt a position consistent with the ideals for which they are known. As long as they stay in these trajectories, governments or the public are unlikely to punish them. Microsoft has faced no backlash for backing the Dreamers Act, going so far as to support legal action against Donald Trump’s attempt to end the regime for undocumented children. And the protests against conservative-leaning Chick-fil-A had limited long-term consequences after Dan Cathy’s opinion on gay marriage became public in 2014.
Myth # 2: Stay neutral, that’s for sure
“So you won’t take lies?” Mark Zuckerberg looked like a deer caught in the headlights when Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told him about her refusal to take deceptive or bogus political ads. Washington’s wisdom would suggest that being an enemy of AOC would make him a conservative hero. No. “You are the ultimate drafter,” Senator Lindsey Graham remarked in the opening statement of another hearing.
By trying to stay neutral, many companies become targets on both sides. They don’t seem sincere. Delta had a similar experience last year when it released a statement on a proposed new electoral restrictions law:
“After having had time to now fully understand everything that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees of the black community, it is evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it more difficult the exercise of many under-represented voters, especially black voters their constitutional right to elect their representatives. This is wrong, ”wrote CEO Ed Bastian in a company note.
For the activists, it was too little too late. The statement came only after “BoycottDelta” was all the rage on Twitter. And Delta was not prepared to stop funding Republicans who supported the bill. Since 2018, he had donated $ 41,600 to the promoters of the bill. At the federal level, 33 out of 41 donations went to Republicans. Republicans weren’t happy either. They felt Delta was stabbing them in the back and weighed the options to punish the company.
“Today’s statement from Delta CEO Ed Bastian contrasts sharply with our conversations with the company, ignores the content of the new law and unfortunately continues to propagate the same bogus attacks repeated by partisan activists.” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said.
Businesses cannot have their cake and eat it on such controversial topics as the right to vote. You are for or against the restriction of votes. “Being Swiss” is not an option.
Myth # 3: Politics Ends At The Door
Trump’s presidency has divided families. It also caused heated exchanges and fallout in many companies. With this in mind, it seems wise to keep politics out of corporate life. There are two reasons why this may not be the right way. First and foremost, it will be impossible to stop people from talking about things they care about. Second, polarization can bring unexpected benefits.
A study of Wikipedia articles in Nature Human Behavior sheds some light on these. To determine the political leanings of 600,000 Wikipedia contributors, the authors measured the frequency with which they contributed to liberal articles versus conservative articles. A survey of contributors confirmed that writing on liberal topics was a reliable predictor of liberal political affiliation and vice versa. This allowed the authors to identify editorial teams that were politically polarized, that is, that had both liberal and conservative contributors. These teams were associated with higher page quality than those created by neutral teams or dominated by a single political bent.
A number of different studies have shown that team diversity increases performance. Political polarization is just another form of diversity. Most executives, however, saw it as a potential source of controversy and distraction. A disagreement can facilitate better outcomes if, as the Wikipedia study suggests, there are clear rules guiding the discussion. With Liberals and Conservatives even relying on different facts, the advantages of politically diverse teams will only increase over time.
Politics is here to stay
For decades, many companies have pretended not to engage in political issues while quietly lobbying behind closed doors. This is often no longer an option. Rather than being stuck between the different sides of the debate, companies should take a stand. It certainly fits with the trendy idea of creating a high performing, goal-oriented organization.