Business Partnership Advisor
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Chris Reich, Business Mediator
When Politics and Business Partners Don’t Mix
My business partner insists on wearing a Trump hat at our business. I can’t stand Trump. This has caused tension between us. I don’t think it’s right to display political things at our business but he does. Yesterday a potential new big client walked out when he saw my partner wearing a MAGA hat. What can I do? I’m ready to get out of the partnership over this.
Politics Does Not Belong in the Workplace
Unless you are in some sort of political business, you should keep politics out of your establishment completely. Of course, you have freedom of speech, but we are in very contentious times and displays of political or religious positions might be off-putting to to your customers. You might have to ask yourself if it’s worth losing customers over wearing a hat.
This post is about what to do when business partners disagree over politics. The issues today run much deeper and more personal than in the past. At least, we seem to take things more personally. We don’t see a person who wears a Trump hat or a Hillary T-Shirt as someone having a different point of view. We see them as dangerous psychopaths! No one wants to be tied to a psychopathic Hitlerian fascist monster for a business partner, right? Who wants to be trapped in a partnership with a liberal commie socialist? That’s where we are today. Frankly, I don’t see any way to reconcile the differences because the gap is too wide and personal.
Talking Will Not Help—Stay Off the Subject
Trying to talk through the issues to find common ground is generally not possible. There is no way to reconcile one person’s appreciation for new jobs in the coal industry with the other’s desire for a cleaner environment. The separations between viewpoints is less to about people being more obstinate today than it is about the positions on today;s issues not having positions where compromise is possible. For example, on side says we need to build a wall to keep people out while the opposing position is to open our arms to the oppressed and provide a path to citizenship. That’s the compromise position?
Because the issues are so polarizing today, my recommendation is to make an agreement with your business partner to leave all politics out of the workplace. Period. That means no displays and no conversations about politics in the workplace—ever. Not after hours. Not ever.
I highly recommend making a policy with your partner to keep politics out of the workplace.
Chris Reich is a Professional Business Mediator
What If Your Partner Will Not Agree to a Policy?
If your business partner refuses to agree to a ‘no politics’ policy at your place of business, you may have a serious problem on your hands. Why? Because your partner may have respect issues with you. If politics are not part of your business, why is it necessary to express a position in the workplace? I understand the argument about being true to yourself or standing up for what you believe, if that expression is to be limited only during time at the business and if it is a problem for you as an equal and valuable partner, can’t that self-expression wait until you’re both away from the office? Out of respect, yes, it can wait.
The real question is probably more about why it’s so important to express a position at work. Could it be because you know it will get under your partner’s skin? Is your partner crusading for a better world or trying to irritate you? The issues are so contentious these days that there is almost certainly an antagonistic component to most political statements people make.
In summary, good policies make good partnerships. If your partnership is getting tense from intrusions of politics, set a policy to ban political talk at your business. Need help setting policies? I can help. I’ll teachu how to talk through issues and draft good policies that you can make part of your partnership agreement.
“The issues are so contentious these days that there is almost certainly an antagonistic component to most political statements people make.”
When the business partnership breaks down, the darker sides of the personalities come through. A dominant partner turns into a bully. A person who does not do well with conflict will withdraw. As the bully gets more aggressive, the pacifist withdraws further. Eventually, the bully gets so angry they are ready to lock the other partner out. The pacifist quits coming in. The next blowout is over money. The course is as logically predictable as what will happen to your car if you hit the highway with no oil in the engine. It will get louder and louder until the engine seizes.
I recommend that partners talk through a specific issue and then draft an agreement (called a resolution) that sets a policy. You can keep this in a binder to serve as amendments (or foundation) to your Partnership Agreement. In this post I’ll explain how to talk about things that bug you with your partner and how to draft a binding resolution to fix the problems.
Unless you are in some sort of political business, you should keep politics out of your establishment completely. Of course, you have freedom of speech, but we are in very contentious times and displays of political or religious positions might be off-putting to to your customers.