Let’s Leave Politics out of Business
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Title:Let’s Leave Politics out of Business
As sites like Linkedin have slowly devolved into a politics focused Facebook medium or a CNN / Fox News Comment section, users are losing out on business specific articles and job postings to posts like ‘solve it riddles’, pictures of cute kitties, and worse – politically charged angry postings (from the right and the left). How quickly we’ve forgotten what LinkedIn was supposed to be – a place for business networking. But here we are, and LinkedIn is now fair game for politically charged hate speech. This problem, though, is simply a symptom of the injection of negative political discourse into our daily lives.
We enter a time, here in July of 2016, when the cable networks are banking on this hate and divisiveness to achieve record ad sales and revenue. We are entering a time, this summer, when family get-togethers have the potential to be tense, or even dramatic (particularly if whiskey or wine coolers are involved). We are entering a time when what we hear on the radio in the morning might just set off our entire day. Because no matter our political leaning, there’s just so much happening in the world that we are now hearing in real time, and it all has the potential to be upsetting, nauseating, or even traumatizing….
I remember the first time I heard the words ‘it’s not personal, it’s only business’ in an actual workplace (versus a tv show or movie). It was nearly 15 years ago, and I was 4 years into my first real job. I hated this comment, particularly because I knew what it meant… It meant ‘I am going to do something that may seem hurtful to you, but don’t worry… it’s not because I don’t like you…it’s just because I’m greedy for power and money! ‘
I also remember the way that I used to get worked up about things not going well in my daily business life. In particular, I remember writing really long emails to clients which I at the time felt were ‘thoughtful’, but were actually just visceral emotional responses to people being.. crappy. In some cases, those emails were effective – but in most cases they were not.
This first example is relevant, because while there’s no reason to justify people doing bad things in business, there is something refreshing about taking the ‘personal’ out of business. If for no other reason, it’s a great way to protect yourself. In Real Estate and Construction, for instance, if you spend 20 years in this business, it’s likely you will come across some people that are not …cool. It’s a lot easier to handle those ‘uncool’ moments if you remember two things…. 1) some people sometimes act badly 2) this is business. The second one works phenomenally well if you immediately follow up that thought with positive thoughts about the people you love in your life, – i.e. friends, family, kids, etc.. The people who are personal to you.
The second example is relevant because once I realized what ‘true professionalism’ really was, and that the practice of being calm, fact based and nearly robotic in nature was undeniably effective, my business really took off… Removing emotion (not all of it but most of it) from business not only helped me become much more successful…. It also probably lowered my blood pressure. Do I still sometimes have sleepless nights, sure… But they are far and few. Do I still have empathy for the people I work with and for….yes absolutely, but I try daily to take my own emotions out of it thus creating efficiency, mutual respect, and even cooperation.
What does this have to do with politics? Well…the business of politics is perhaps THE most emotionally based business on the planet. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that if the other side wins an election, it’s an attack on our humanity. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that the other party is not just wrong…they are ‘evil’. Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves to lash out instead of discuss, to get louder instead of listen and digest, and to push away instead of embrace…
I don’t see any immediate solution to our divisiveness, so in the meantime, when I’m outside of my personal circles – for example within my network in the business world, I like to cleanse myself of any political thoughts, emotions, or context. Why talk politics when the day is already going so well… 😉
And this works, for the most part, until I go to my business networking site, and I see a candidate or client that I’d really like to work with, and then I see a posting that he or she has made which is a repost of some bizarrely outdated political propaganda, or a picture of a war zone and an insulting political tagline, or a comment on another junk post in which this business connection is rambling with rage.
Sure this person is making a fool of themselves, but maybe it was just a one off….a bad day, maybe they watched too much cable news this weekend. Sure…if this person and I started talking politics, it would get really ugly really fast. Sure, I have trouble shedding my own emotional response to this person’s stance on political issues. But, hey, this person has a proven record as a Construction Project Manager, or Real Estate Developer. I may have the perfect company or candidate to introduce to them…
What do I do? Pick up the phone and say “Hello ____”, “Let’s Talk Business.”
We will all share in the benefits if we work on leaving politics out of business. Obviously it’s up to you how you plan to deal with your next family cook-out when ‘that one cousin’ shows up.