Always feels to me like the “Should we or should we not ban political discussion at work?” debate is a little forced. It’s content to fill cracks. Here’s just a couple of thoughts I have around all that:
- How could you truly ban it? Monitor Slack, Basecamp, email, and every single conversation that people have across a day? Seems like a waste of time, especially if you’re saying “ban politics” in the name of productivity. Well, the ends you would need to go to in order to ban politics would also decrease productivity.
- What is “politics” and what is not? And don’t some “politics” theoretically touch the business and what it does?
- I think sometimes the real tea here is that founders and executives, who are older and accrue more money, tend to be more right-leaning — not always, but often. Younger employees who maybe have a bigger digital voice or scream from the Slack rafters tend to be a bit younger and more left-leaning. Everyone at 23 thinks the world can be a better place and they will be part of it. By 40, most people are like “Well, I got these two kids and this house, and that’s good enough for me. Now I shall protect that.” So you got people with true power chasing the Big Lie — “I can’t get talent because Dementia Joe is giving out free money, ugh!” — and you’ve got people with customer-facing reps chasing the AOC Gram narratives — “Equality for all, and down with cis white male systems and student debt!” and frankly, the conversation is less about productivity and discord and more about tension. These founders and execs know they have power, but they’ve also seen their ilk “cancelled” over the last 3–5 years, and they’re terrified some mob is coming for them. So there’s a very real tension there, where they feel like they must make some concessions, but not all concessions, because they are still Big Swinging Dick Barry. That seems to be what’s actually going on.
- The final sad tea leaf here is that when political discussions are a part of work, and some “official program” comes down about them, typically HR manages that. Who would want to discuss the Trump insurrection with HR Brenda who can also help fire me? I’d jump through a plate glass window before I participated in that. Anything dumped to HR is the opposite of organic. It’s forced and terrifying. Hence, it barely works there either.