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We Don’t Get to Tell Employees How to Vote

I can’t believe I even have to say this, but . . .

Now that the election is over and we are all moving forward with our lives, I just have to call out one form of business owner behavior which is never acceptable.

We don’t get to tell people how to vote.

I heard horror stories from neighbors and friends of letters from the CEO coming home on Monday November 4, warning of dire consequences if one candidate or the other won. I talked to a shaken business acquaintance who was pulled aside by her manager and scolded that he expected more of her than her professed affinity for her candidate (employees who favored the manager’s candidate were not similarly demeaned). Business owners took it upon themselves to tell their employees how to vote – in some cases or else.

We don’t get to tell people how to vote. This violates one of the most important responsibilities we have as human beings – respect for the other’s right to his or her own values and opinions.

We don’t get to feign concern about our employees’ preferences, using the condescending narrative that we worry they don’t know what’s best for them. We don’t get to make it uncomfortable for some employees to talk about their politics but not others (i.e., those who agree with us).

We hire people for their talents and their dependability. We want them to bring their whole selves to work, so we can benefit from their ideas and their motivation. When we discount their personal authority by telling them how to vote, we show our employees that we don’t trust them to make adult decisions. How can that that message possibly help our businesses thrive?

I know the next general election is four whole years away. But let’s try to remember this. We don’t get to tell people how to vote.

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