This is supposed to be a blog for small business owners and operators, right? So normally, we steer clear of political topics, but we believe some current political events have parallels in the business world. Be patient, stay tuned, and we’ll eventually get to the business point of this.
Unless you’ve been in a coma for the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen all the news coverage of the spat between President Trump and four congresswomen of color. The spat, in general, is over the left-of-center views espoused by these four women, and in particular, over Trump’s use of ICE and Homeland Security. Trump has declared these women “unpatriotic” and has suggested that they should go back where they came from (even though they’re all American citizens).
Unpatriotic? Go back where you came from? It’s reminiscent of the Vietnam War years when “America: Love It or Leave It” was everywhere on bumper stickers and tee shirts. Why is honest dissent or disagreement suddenly “unpatriotic?” Does that mean to be a patriot, you have to agree with whoever happens to be in power at the time? In the 1995 movie, “The American President,” President Andrew Shepherd (played by actor Michael Douglas) gave a speech that is instructive here. In it he said, “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve got to want it bad, because it’s going to put up a fight. It’s going to say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil and who is standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’” So free speech is enshrined in our Constitution, and yet those who dare to use it to express an opposing view are labeled “unpatriotic.” Go figure.
But we promised a business connection to all of this. To learn the nature of that connection, please continue reading below.
Unpatriotic? Go back where you came from? Huh?
Of course, American businesses are not democracies. Business owners and leaders are not required to put every decision to a vote. Yet there is probably trouble ahead for business owners and leaders who cling to a hierarchical organizational structure wherein the BOSS makes all the important decisions and tells others in the organization, “If you don’t like the way I’m running things, maybe you should go someplace else.” Business owners will frequently defend their right to make unilateral decisions about the business citing the financial risks they have taken to get the business started. And it’s true. Business owners often have to take extraordinary financial risks to get where they are. Yet they forget that their employees have also taken significant financial risks . . . i.e., they have tied their future to that of the company, and have entrusted the company to provide financial security for themselves and their families. So shouldn’t they have a voice in decisions that could impact that financial security . . . not a vote, but a voice? We believe they should, and here’s why.
- Is it possible that a blue-collar guy from the shop floor, if asked, might come up with an idea or opinion or concern that top management had not considered? Absolutely.
- Is it possible, having been invited to share his ideas, opinions, or concerns, that this blue-collar guy from the shop floor will feel validated as a valued member of the company? Absolutely.
- Is it possible that even if his thoughts are not incorporated into the final decision, our blue-collar guy from the shop floor will feel that he had a fair hearing and will therefore support the final decision? Absolutely.
Unfortunately, some owners are mired in the past and enamored of their ability to throw down lightening bolts. These owners, like their political counterparts, are likely to say, “If people don’t like working here, they should go someplace else.” But here’s the downside to that point of view.
- In this day and age of full employment, if employees feel under appreciated and disrespected, they will go someplace else.
- In this day and age of full employment, where will the company find quality candidates to fill the jobs left open by those who decided to go someplace else.
- If employees feel shut out of the company’s decision-making processes, they could seek collective bargaining as a way to gain some level of control over their financial security. Unions have formed for causes less than that.
The idea of “let ‘em go someplace else” is a stupid way to handle dissent, either in the political realm or in the business world. And again, we’re not talking about democratizing business. Final decisions will still be made by upper management . . . but only after others have had a chance to be heard. Yes, when we invite a larger pool of people into our decision-making process, decisions take more time, and the process can get more complicated, even messy. But that’s a small downside when compared to the upside of a more inclusive corporate culture.