Business Guides

When Partners Disagree Politically

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

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Partners Disagree Politically
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Dear Bev,

My partner and I are at a crossroads in our advisory firm. For years we have been in sync about our values and culture, how we should grow and even the people we have hired to join our team. In the last few months, though, he has become aligned with some radical political philosophies.

He will pontificate in team meetings on immigration (we have a couple of employees whose families came to the U.S. in recent times who are very offended by this). He will ask people to sign petitions on all sorts of things. Every single conversation we have, he turns to some phraseology that makes me out to be a liberal nut. I’m actually quite moderate in my views, but I am protective of our team, so I don’t agree with his vocal views, especially in a public forum, and especially where I know they are offensive to other staff members.

I have tried the “discussion over coffee” approach to ask him to tone down a bit, and have tried having one of our more trusted employees who he respects talk with him privately. I have chosen to leave the whole thing alone hoping it will run its course, but nothing is working.

It’s a twofold issue for me – I personally don’t agree with many of the things he is saying so I am unable to support him. I don’t want to get into public debates over this, but I also see the impact he is having on the firm. We have 17 people here, so we are not a tiny operation, and if we have some of our better people leave because they are offended, it would have a huge impact.

This entire situation is frustrating because we had such a good thing for so long. He was never this extreme in anything – it has come out of nowhere and I don’t know how to get us back onto the track we were on. I have always trusted his views and his knowledge is unparalleled. I can’t see separating or dissolving the firm, but I can’t watch our good people walk out the door either. Do you have any other ideas on what I could do to tone him down or get us back to where we were before?

Anonymous

Dear Advisor,

These are interesting times, for sure. Most of us grew up being taught, “Don’t talk politics or religion unless you want a fight” but no one could have predicted just how divaricated we could become! The different views are separating family members, long-time friends, and – in the case you outline here – business partners, too.

So, you can’t close your eyes and hope it gets better, but you also have to tread carefully. As you point out, when someone is dedicated to their viewpoint, and has entrenched their position on any given topic, trying to argue, cajole or convince seldom works to move their opinion. In fact, in many cases these behaviors only serve to deepen the person’s viewpoint. I often refer to this as the “dance” people get into. He vents, on whatever topic, you push back on how hurtful his comments might be to the team, he perceives you as liberal and wrong, you push back and you are only defending the team, and he sees you as liberal and wrong, etc. etc. etc. You can expect the next step the person will take, but you can’t seem to get them to try a different dance move.

Read the full article here by Beverly Flaxington, Advisor Perspective