Are Companies Opting Out of Social Politics?
There seems to be a shift away from companies taking public stances on social and political issues.
First, Coinbase and Basecamp controversially implemented "no politics at work" policies and got skewered by the progressive media and (what felt like) much of the laptop class in general. Meanwhile, these founders were getting praised in private conversations for doing what the majority wish they could do if only they weren't fearful of negative impacts on PR and shareholder value.
Then reports began surfacing of the degradation of company culture and employee productivity when companies allowed social politics to integrate with the workplace. Inevitably, tribalism took over and the emphasis on the work itself took a backseat to Slack wars. This quickly became unmanageable, destructive, and incredibly unproductive. (See Meta’s about-face on this.)
Fast forward to today and it looks like the Coinbase and Basecamp crews were ahead of the curve.
Now, my personal theory on the matter:
Once companies and their customers realized that the goalposts on these issues would never stop moving, they simply opted out of the conversation—grounding back into the reality of simply providing/seeking a solution to a problem. For businesses, that translates to product-market fit and profitability. For customers, it means just solve my damn problem.
A quick aside: It’s nice to think that we vote with our dollars. With some things, we might. But certainly not with all things. In the end, it’s become too exhausting for businesses and customers to keep up with the ever-evolving social-political landscape. We have lives to live, jobs to do, and money to make. We will always choose more ease, less friction if it’s an option.
As a business, when you see that you can never be the most virtuous, that you can never be the most progressive, and that just when you think you've done enough the line of what's deemed sensitive, disrespectful, and inappropriate (or worse) keeps moving, you have to opt-out and get back to business. It's the only way to remain sane and profitable.
I’ve been observing this phenomenon in the business world for a few years now. I certainly have my opinions on the topic. That said, my perspective here is based on observational evidence and qualitative data that continues to be reinforced. I’m sure there’s quantitative data on this as well. Although I personally don’t require it. To me, it’s clear why this is happening on both sides of the fence.
P.S. If you disagree with my observation and theory, I’d encourage you to seek your own evidence as to why it’s beneficial for companies to be involved in social and political issues. I just ask that you approach this objectively and from the perspective of a business that has customers and employees with a diverse set of beliefs.
P.P.S. These are some resources if you want to dive deeper into this topic.
- The Hill: Why companies should stay away from controversial social and political issues
- Columbia Business School data on corporate activism and employee productivity
- Gallup data
Give this post a Like on LinkedIn