When I was a little kid, I couldn’t wait to watch the original Star Trek on Sunday afternoons. Even at that young age, I recognized the power of creatures from all over the galaxy working as one towards a common goal of exploring strange new worlds. The bridge of the Enterprise was a bunch of freaks, geeks, nerds, and outcasts, kicking ass and taking names. The original Star Trek was a thinly disguised metaphor for the “melting-pot” America is, or could be, and I loved it.
It sure feels like that melting pot is being destroyed the the point that perhaps we are at a crossroads. One thing is for sure, escaping the discussion for even a few moments is getting harder and harder. Political messages are baked into and often featured in books, movies, television, social media, award shows, YouTube videos, and any source of news. Social gatherings, family gatherings and even concerts are now places where everyone has to walk on egg shells to avoid the wrath of the political tribes that attend them.
And now, almost every day now I see companies that are embracing political posturing on one side or the other that sends my head crashing to my desk: Why are companies like Coca-Cola, Jeep, Disney, Nike, My Pillow, and many others working so hard to piss off at least one-half of the United States to the point of losing them as customers forever?
I’ve always disliked people talking politics in the office, mostly because it is an insufferable distraction from the mission we are supposed to be on. But also because it always takes a nasty turn and winds up excluding someone to the point of making them not want to come back to work. And let’s be honest: No one likes it when companies lecture us on politics.
So why do it? Why not stay focused on being the very best at what it is you do. Did you ever hear the staff on the Enterprise arguing about socialism or a particular election? Of course not.
I am not a saint in all this; I have participated in many heated discussions about politics while at work, but I do my best to avoid it like the plague now, and make coming to work the one place where it can be avoided for a bit.
When politics creeps into what should be a work discussion, I find myself thinking, “no, we are not going there,” and it helps me re-focus the whole discussion on the task at hand.
While I believe in free speech, and that everyone can and should discuss the important issues of our time where and when appropriate, there is no place for it when you want everyone to feel welcome, involved, and engaged in what they are doing. It does not bring people together, and it divides them more than ever.
When politics are bombarding people everywhere, giving people a breather at work might be the most rebellious thing a company can do.
Let’s be rebels.