Do politics and LinkedIn mix?
I recently stumbled upon a post on LinkedIn that was advocating for a certain person to win the upcoming 2020 US presidential election. I’m not going to say whom they were pressing for, because it’s not the point of this post, but it was a simple post that asked people to say “absolutely” if they supported that candidate, or something along the lines of “no way” if they didn’t. What struck me wasn’t the replies addressing the question posed in the post, it was the thousands of comments condemning the poster for making LinkedIn a realm for political discourse that seemed to be the poster’s biggest sin.
It got me thinking- do LinkedIn and political discussions mix?
I think not.
We’re told to never bring up religion or politics at the dinner table, because of the rabbit-hole conversation that often ensues, with very little to show for it at the end other than frustration and possibly the unravelling of family or friendship ties. I think this dinner table analogy extends to LinkedIn, in spite of the fact that LinkedIn remains a social networking site that welcomes free, unabashed speech. My main reasoning
You need to think of LinkedIn as a virtual extension of an office, at a massive, all-encompassing trade show. People are there first and foremost to show off their professional skills, and tout their organisation’s
Wittingly or not, people have flocked to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to advertise the more personal aspects of their lives. People share things on Facebook and Twitter that they wouldn’t necessarily share on LinkedIn, because it’s a space dedicated to entrepreneurism and aspects of their professional life, rather than personal lives.
That’s why you see so many posts filled with inflammatory comments, in-fighting and the airing of personal grievances on a Facebook and Twitter feed, and less-so on a LinkedIn feed. The majority of LinkedIn users recognise the fact that while they have a personal profile, this profile is often linked to their work, and you become a de-facto advertisement and/or spokesperson for the organisation, whether you like it or not.
Robert Glazer wrote in a Forbes article that “unless politics is in your career, it isn’t a great idea for LinkedIn.” Glazer goes on to explain that “if your organisation is listed on your LinkedIn profile – as is the case for many – it’s vital to remember that you represent that organisation on this site. LinkedIn is not the appropriate forum for political discourse, especially when you are representing your employer.”
At Best Practice, we don’t have an explicit policy when it comes to political speech, although I imagine some larger companies probably have something along the lines of ‘save it for the break-room’ in their handbooks. I think it’s a testament to the unproductive nature of political discussions, which often break down into personal insults once the opposing side realises that they’re not going to get someone to change some of their most core beliefs in the space of a few minutes.
LinkedIn should be thought of as an extension of the workplace, where the news feeds are centered around real-world tactics to improve professional skills, and learn how to implement profound changes in your own organisation that you’ve gained through someone else’s experiences.
The main reason I’m advocating for political discussions to be vastly outnumbered by professional development and business-related posts comes down to the end result of the conversation. There is no ‘end point’ of a political discussion in 2020, it often results in mud-slinging and personal attacks. If you’re using LinkedIn as a device for these personal attacks, it’s essential that you remember that your professional career is now tied to these beliefs, and if a potential employer scopes your LinkedIn profile – a common occurrence in the recruitment process – this can hinder future employment opportunities, or potentially spoil a lucrative deal between your employer and another company.
I’m in no way advocating for these types of activities, but it’s a reality of the world we live in, and remains something employees need to be aware of.
It’s less of a matter of free speech, simply because your profile is tied to your employer, and you’re bringing them into the fighting ring without their knowledge. Save these discussions for your Facebook or Twitter feeds, where there is absolutely no need to tie your employment details in with your personal information.
I accept that this is problematic. You should be able to express your political leanings without fear of repercussions. In the words of Evenlyn Beatrice Hall, while I might disapprove of what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it. That is, however, something that I can only defend when it’s your personal avatar writing it online, not an extension of an organisation that is determined to remain apolitical.
The idealistic version of LinkedIn is a place for the free exchange of ideas that are centered on pretty much everything… including politics, so long as people realise that their personal beliefs are intertwined with that of their employer, and they approach the conversation in a different way.
Thanks for your time, and I’ll see you in the next piece.
Kobi Simmat, Director & CEO of the Best Practice Group.