Politics Are Like Laundry…


Politics are an unfortunate byproduct of a society with clashing values. I describe politics as unfortunate because, let’s face it, they have a negative connotation. As the prompt for this week recognized, most people like to stay far away from politics. To me, politics are like doing laundry–they’re an annoyance, but you can’t avoid them completely. We have already explored the inextricable link between values and business. Given that values inform your political views, politics are also inextricably tied to business. Yet, if we are hesitant to engage in political conversations, how can managers navigate their inevitable presence? 

In order to formulate my own opinions on this precarious question, I started to look for examples of managers who have successfully professed their political views. One famous example is Jeff Bezos, the creator and owner of Amazon. Bezos pledged $2.5 million dollars in 2012 to help support Washington state’s Referendum 74, legislation that would legally permit same-sex marriage. Two years later, Amazon is alive and well. Bezos did not incite deprecating criticism. Why? His actions truly reflected his values and did not clash with a substantial segment of Amazon’s employees, customer base or investors; Amazon’s stakeholders were complicit with Bezos’ decision.

Bezos makes the whole issue of politics in business seem innocuous. Surely, it isn’t. Consider Chik-fil-A president Dan Cathy’s decision to openly condemn gay marriage. Cathy’s comments provoked a national outcry against the company as protests at local Chik-fil-A restaurants gained national attention. Cathy has the same right to profess his opinions as Bezos, and yet he received significant negative attention. His expressions aligned with his own values, but not with the values of society. Would Cathy have been better off to suppress his own values? Absolutely.

In tying these two examples together, we can formulate an important insight: managers must understand the impact of their political views and take a stakeholder-oriented approach. Even though managers should have the right to express their true values, they need to understand that they are prone to scrutiny and should pick their words wisely by understanding the interests of their stakeholders. If a manager’s views differ greatly from those of his stakeholders, then perhaps he isn’t the right fit for the job. Companies are not required to enter into political conversations, but when they do, they must enter with caution.

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8 responses to “Politics Are Like Laundry…

  1. One concept that your blog made me think about is how a manager’s personal values can affect their company from the perspective of the workers. While someone could say that Cathy’s personal views harmed him by hurting his business, as a result the employees of Chick-Fil-A are harmed as well. In summation, do you think that it is fair for a leader to incorporate his/her personal views into company actions if they could hurt employees who have no direct influence in the decisions?

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  2. In response to your question, I think the leader of a company has to have similar values to his/her stakeholders. I do not think managers can effectively remove bias or their values from a decision–they are unconsciously embedded in our thought processes.

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  3. I think that managers can lead a company that doesn’t actively support their values but not one that makes decisions which hurt the things they are passionate about. I agree with you, when a manager realizes that their values and a companies values don’t align to the point where it’s going to influence their decision making, they should step down from their managerial position. The best leaders are passionate and you cannot be passionate about things your values do not support.

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  4. Politics are the fabric of society, it is what builds the rules and values that society must work within. Companies must work within the political environment that people create. People are what make up a company and play a part in choosing the politics of society, but it is the poor who have the smallest voice yet need the most help.

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  5. I agree that manager should step down if their political views contrast directly with stakeholders values. However, how easy is it for these managers to see that need? Do you think that most managers would willingly remove themselves if their beliefs contrasted with their company?

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  6. I really like your metaphor that politics is like laundry because that is exactly how I feel about them. I do not particularly like discussing politics, but at the end of the day, by just being aware of issues in society, or by watching the news I have developed my own ideas about politics. With politics constantly begin discuss all around, in every social media platform and in conversations, it is pretty much inevitable that I will have to share my views at some point. Just like how one day you just have to do laundry.

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  7. is Chick-fill-a public or private?

    Can one argue that Bezos made the “popular” choice? Or that either one reflected the majority opinion of their customers? I don’t know enough about Chick-fll-a to know if they are more likely to have more D or R customers.

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