Lesson for Young Brokers: No Politics!

In the opening scene of the movie Sleepers, two men in suits and ties are discussing politics in a New York City bar. The two local tough guys call over the bartender, send them each a drink, and tell the bartender to deliver a message.

The bartender says, “You know the rules. No religion, no politics.”

As I watched the election results last night until after 2:00 a.m., it dawned upon me that I should have written this post a few weeks ago. In my opinion, as a service provider, we should follow the same rules. In fact, it’s not only limited to religion and politics. When it comes to interacting with clients and sometimes co-workers, we should steer clear of any potentially controversial topics.

I learned this lesson over 20 years ago when I was working for my family in the restaurant business. I was in one of our restaurants before it was open for the day, alone, preparing. Since it was just me, I tuned the sound system to Howard Stern instead of the soft rock that it was typically programmed to. Just before opening, my uncle walked in just as Howard was getting a bit racy.

My uncle explained that if a customer had walked in at that point, we might have lost a customer forever. When I explained that Howard Stern was the number one rated radio show in the market, he agreed. However, he said that Howard was potentially offensive to non-fans, while no one would be offended by soft rock.

That lesson has stayed with me and served me well for over 20 years.

This election was filled with controversial issues. A co-worker posted an opinion on LinkedIn taking a very definitive stand on one of those issues. Since he is connected to others in the office, his post was a topic of conversation, unbeknownst to him. He later removed the post, I assume because he realized LinkedIn wasn’t the right medium for his political opinions.

What if it wasn’t his just co-workers that were discussing his post? What if one of his clients was offended by his political opinions? Was there any upside to taking a stand? Not much. Was there downsize? A lot.

I am not advocating agreeing with every client’s political or social views. What I am saying is that there’s a time and place for those kinds of conversations, especially when you consider that through social media, things never really go away. Unless you are completely comfortable with everyone who will hear or read your opinion, think twice about sharing that opinion and ask yourself:

“What’s my upside? What’s my downside?”

Early in my career, while on tour with a new client, she shared her opinion with me on a social issue that was in the news. I didn’t agree with her opinion, and in fact, I was shocked that she would take the side she was taking. I sat in the car, nodded a lot, and did my best to change the topic as soon as possible. Debating the topic wouldn’t serve me well and I could have lost a client. Even if she had listened to my opinion and changed hers, what would I have gained?

No matter who you voted for, who you supported, and whether or not you were in favor of additional casinos in New Jersey, it’s time for us to come together as a country. Unity should be the theme of the day.

Do I have political opinions? Sure. Will anyone be offended by my call for unity? Doubtful.

Just like the movie, “No religion, no politics.”