Whether you’re an intense politics junkie or a neutral and passive observer — or even if you just landed here from Mars — it’s impossible to miss the deeply divided political climate that has crept into nearly every corner of our nation.
Be as engaged as you wish with your job and your political views. Just keep them separate.
As these divisions (and the opinions that inevitably accompany them) intensify, so does the temptation to convert those on the other side of the aisle to our way of thinking. This urge to vocalize the redeeming qualities of our political “team” is straight from a human nature that isn’t unique to Republicans, Democrats, or independents.
As satisfying as delivering a well thought-out point or counterpoint can be, it can also be professional death when the venue is the workplace — or the audience is a customer.
Automotive retail is no different. For agents, the dealership ecosystem can be full of landmines when it comes to talking politics with owners, principals, managers, and staff. That means staying focused on why you’re there should be your No. 1 job when you’re in the store.
HOW ABOUT THAT BORDER WALL?
No matter how tempting it may be to launch into a rant about how bad Obamacare is or how awful the border wall is, staying neutral (or just staying quiet) is the best way to accomplish your mission.
You’re in the store to represent the brands of your products and your agency. You want the people with whom you interact to remember those things and not your position on a candidate or a political issue.
And while it’s true that no one wants a vanilla, cardboard, robotic personality walking into the F&I office with something to sell, in most cases, they also don’t want you sprinkling your “Trump Nation” or “Feel the Bern” commentary into a business discussion.
Additionally, there are many people in our uber-political world who just don’t want to hear any talk of politics. When you walk into their dealerships, you have relationships to develop, a product to market, and a family to feed — not a candidate to endorse. Many of us will just roll our eyes when someone injects politics into the workplace — even if we agree with the rant!
YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYBODY
For argument’s sake, let’s assume that you are 100% certain that you’re calling on a dealership with a conservative owner. Does that translate to the political leanings of the store’s management, customers, and staff? With the American population split nearly evenly between political identities, the answer is most certainly no.
More often than not, you will need the rank and file to accept your pitch, sell your agency’s product, and pay your invoices. Why risk alienating them by talking politics when you’re in their workplace?
With stores that can be strung across multiple states and political environments, your opinions and reputation for injecting politics into a business visit to a dealership can certainly follow you from customer to customer — as can your political posting on social media outlets.
If you’re connected with your customers on LinkedIn (which is likely) and Facebook (which is possible), the political posts you make and share on those platforms will also shape the opinion that your dealers and their employees have about you — and that reflects directly on your product and your agency.
So be smart. Is one politically charged post really worth creating a negative perception among any of your dealer customers? Just like delivering your views on candidates and divisive issues in-person at the dealership workplace, the answer is a loud “Hell no!” Be as engaged as you wish with your job and your political views. Just keep them separate.
BRUCE MARTIN IS THE PRESIDENT OF BROAD & PATTISON AUTOMOTIVE SEARCH INC., A MANAGEMENT RECRUITING AND EXECUTIVE SEARCH FIRM THAT EXCLUSIVELY SERVES THE U.S. AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY.