Mature, respectful professionals—especially business owners—do not publicize their political views via email and/or social media.
Those who broadcast their political agendas may elicit deeper, riskier responses than they expected.
As the 2016 presidential horse race continues to heat up, it makes sense to take a look at this issue. I think publicizing one's political beliefs is akin to flinging lit matches at a powder keg. You may get away with it some of the time but not all of the time.
Then when the keg explodes, you learn too late that the consequences are much more severe than you bargained for.
Everyone's supposed to be entitled to his or her opinions—especially when they happen to agree with ours, right? Surely, intense and passionate political beliefs are a fact of life. In bygone days, for instance, two guys at a pub or family reunion might trade punches over an issue or a candidate.
In that scenario, the biggest risks were bloody noses and embarrassment in a dispute that actually was a localized, relatively private event.
Today, the scenario has changed. Tensions seem to be higher and feelings felt much deeper than in the past. In fact, the political atmosphere feels superheated and badly polarized. At any given time or place, political discussions sound much edgier and angrier than they used to.
What's more, newer forms of mass media such as the Internet and social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al—rule our lives. The speed and reach of these modern channels of communication are almost beyond comprehension. In the blink of an eye, a passionate opinion or dispute publicized via modern media may reach hundreds to thousands of people. Messages are re-sent and forwarded constantly, usually without your knowledge.
So unlike the face-to-face argument at the pub or family picnic, publicizing your opinions may create an unseen but riskier sort of confrontation. Respect, dear readers, that modern media channels are anything but private or discreet. It's human nature to repeat or resend messages—especially items someone may feel are insulting, offensive or inflammatory.
Furthermore, some people are likely to share these messages with other, like-minded folks who also think the material is offensive.
Before you realize it, you may have confronted and offended dozens, if not hundreds of your customers—or perhaps potential patrons—within your market area. In today's ultra-competitive marketplace, your tire dealership or service shop should be making as many friends as practically possible instead of creating enemies.
Worse yet, you may not appreciate the damage your precious opinions have done until you realize your car count has dropped or those vital fleet accounts mysteriously disappear.
Don't get me wrong. Today's mass media channels are and have been instrumental in spreading vital, useful information, especially in the aftermath of human tragedies and natural disasters. That said, this pervasive and lightning-fast technology seems to empower people to say whatever they want, whenever they want via their favorite channel of communication. In the wake of these powerful media, common courtesy, decorum and discretion seem passé.
Regardless of what the “new normal” seems to be, spouting your political opinions is an action—and those have consequences. Unlike my powder-keg example, these consequences may not be obvious or immediate, but may damage your reputation as well as your business' image in the neighborhood. This is collateral damage you don't need.
If you insist on telegraphing anything on modern mass media channels, promote positive concepts and projects for your industry and community. This could include everything from technician recruitment to publicizing your shop's completed renovation. Or it could include promoting a fund-raiser for flood relief or helping homeless veterans.
These are positive, productive themes that everyone will embrace and admire.