By John Swanciger of Manta
It’s an age-old question: Do business and personal politics mix?
In this unconventional election year, views are mixed. Yet, according to a new Manta survey of more than 1,300 small business owners, one-third of business owners make their political views known to their customers, employees or suppliers.
Small business owners choose to voice their opinions for a variety of reasons. Sixty-five percent said they feel a responsibility to promote positive values in their communities and another 64 percent said they want their businesses to reflect their personal values. About a third (31 percent) of respondents said customers react positively to their political stances.
Most small business owners (82 percent) say they don’t do anything formal to express their views, but are not afraid speak freely about politics. Only about a fourth (26 percent) of owners said they go as far as expressing their political views on social media, and even fewer (13 percent) post signs, ads or other public displays.
However, given the record number of voters in primary elections this year, it’s no surprise that small business owners are engaged in this year’s presidential race. Donald Trump continues to be popular among business owners. When asked which presidential candidate would best represent small business interests, 41 percent of small business owners said Donald Trump, followed by Hillary Clinton (21 percent) and Bernie Sanders (19 percent).
According to Manta’s poll, small business owners who support the Republican party are more likely to make their political views known to customers and employees over those who support Democratic candidates. In fact, 45 percent of Trump supporters said they expressed their political views in their businesses, compared with just 31 percent of Clinton supporters.
Although it’s important for all citizens to be politically engaged, taking a vocal stance at work could alienate current and future customers, employees and vendors. With months left in the presidential race, politics will stay top of mind for business owners and consumers alike. Here are a few tips for managing political tensions at work:
Set the tone.
While talking about politics should never be outlawed in the workplace, it’s important to foster an environment that is respectful of different opinions. As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to create an open atmosphere that’s accepting of various political ideologies. If you feel like a political conversation between coworkers or customers is getting heated, let them know there is zero tolerance for angry arguments, discrimination and ridicule over political differences.
Don’t initiate political conversations.
Politics is a polarizing topic. Owners should avoid asking about an employee’s or customer’s political affiliation, or how he or she might vote. Everyone has the right to keep their political opinions private, and pushing for a political dialogue can quickly create tension among coworkers, customers and partners.
Stay away from heated issues.
While some political topics and news like economic policy are less divisive, other topics should always be avoided in the workplace. If hot-button issues do happen to come up, read the situation and make a decision as to how to divert conversations away from potentially hurtful or otherwise tense arguments.
At the end of the day, most people already have their minds made up about their political affiliations. As a small business owner, going out of your way to express such ideas can prove more detrimental than productive. While it’s great to be politically engaged in your private life, tread carefully when talking about politics in the workplace.
John Swanciger is a seasoned technology executive with vast experience in team building, product marketing and strategic partner development. As CEO, he leads Manta to strengthen its current offerings, while expanding products and services for a growing customer base of small business owners. John brings more than 15 years of industry experience working with high-growth business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies, including Accenture, Hotwire and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. Most recently, he was responsible for product marketing, sales, business development and partner relations as Switchfly’s chief commercial officer. John is a board director at Liftopia and received a bachelor’s degree in finance from Boston College.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.