Interestingly, however, Zandan also asked if attendees knew the political stance of their CEOs, to which an overwhelming majority said they did.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as a leader’s personal values are tied to the company’s values in ways that make sense, says Caroline Valentine, president and founder of Austin-based Valentine HR.
“When you enter into a conversation about personal values, oftentimes you have to revert to what the company has established as its key values,” she said. “The issue is when a leader has an opinion on a political decision or candidate and ties it back to a personal belief system that isn’t related to the values of the organization. That’s how you alienate employees.”
Can your employer discriminate against you because of your political beliefs or your political activities outside of work? Each state actually has different laws, and some even allow employers to display favoritism; for instance, a private employer can fire an employee for putting a political bumper sticker on his or her car.
While displaying favoritism based on political beliefs may be legal in some states, the potential costs far outweigh the benefit of doing so.
Another area of contention was policies around social media accounts. What if your head of sales posts something negative about a politician, more employees follow suit and, next thing you know, customers and vendors are offended and are less inclined to do business with your company?
This is actually a more prevalent issue than the alienation of employees at work, Valentine said.
“The biggest issue we’re seeing isn’t alienation, it’s more about brand perception from a customer and client perspective,” she said. “I see more issues around company leaders expressing some fear about their brand being negatively impacted because of something an employee said or did outside of the workplace.”