Ask Minda Honey: Doing business with the enemy

Oct 31, 2018 at 9:56 am
Minda Honey

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Minda, I found the sales rep of the company I work for does business with on Twitter, and his retweets included the president, antimedia bias and conservative tweets.  While he may be a decent representative of a Fortune 100 company, should the fact that I noticed his personal opinions on politics matter substantially for the business we need to conduct?

I am an out and proud gay man who has been fighting for my rights and constantly checking my privilege the entirety of my career. I see every action in 2018 as political, from eating at Chick-Fil-A and shopping at Hobby Lobby to someone calling the police because a POC is nearby to buying a firearm while living in a major city with a responsive police force. I attempt to check my privilege every day, my whiteness, being a cisgender male and coming from an upper-middle class family.

The state of the country is fraught, tense and flooded with bias, am I contributing to the problem of divisiveness? Is it appropriate to extend my personal belief and hold that against a rep who is probably oblivious to his privilege and how his stances hurt me and the people I care about? —(Insert standard white boy name here)

Hi Mr. Standard, What I want you to do, and what I think you want to do, is very evident: Stop doing business with this totally-terrible person. But the issue is, can you do that without the company you work for seeing it as a total abuse of your power? Can you simply partner with a different business without any ripple effect? If so, why not do it? When I worked in sales, I had to be mindful of either locking down my social media, or flying deep undercover. I certainly didn’t feel comfortable parading around my love of O-BAM-A when meeting with clients in the middle of nowhere Colorado. I had to do what I needed to do to close a sale and keep my bills paid, and, often, that meant keeping my personal life separate from my professional life. Sales is all about relationships — you’re really selling yourself more than anything else. People can choose not to work with you because of your personality, or because you’re black or a woman or trans or whatever, and, often, there’s not shit you can do about it or prove. So, it’s gotta feel good to be the one that’s on the deciding end of things and deciding not to give what is a substantial amount of business to a rep whose political views are abhorrent — that rep will have to figure out another way to make money to buy their MAGA Christmas ornaments.

But what I suspect is the company you work for has a formula they use to choose the businesses they partner with, and, while there may be a little wiggle room on this, it’s not significant enough that if you tried to ditch this business you’d be able to do so without reason. And the politics of their rep probably isn’t a reason that’ll get you a pass because you likely work with, and for, people who share this rep’s views. So, is taking business from this rep, who won’t even realize they’re being punished for their love of Trump worth jeopardizing your job over? Likely not. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have any power in this situation.

If you’re an out and proud gay man involved in any affinity groups at work, why not add it to your email signature? Why not make it apparent to this rep in some way every time you have to work together that you are gay and progressive? Just like your business has a formula, there’s a formula for privilege and how much you can get away with in the workplace. You might not be straight but being cis and white definitely gives you some bandwidth to assert yourself. Do so. Plus you have the financial safety net that is your upper-middle class family.

As I ascended in status with my last company, I definitely began pushing back more and asserting my blackness and my womanness and letting the reps around be the ones that had to deal with discomfort if they wanted to close a sale. As a self-employed person, I now choose who I work with and make my values very evident.

So, what action is in between doing nothing about this and losing your job? Figure out what that is and then based on your privilege and your security in your role, go one step further. It’ll be scary, but it’ll likely have a high ROI too (and remember, I advise based on the info I have, so if you get fired, we ain’t liable over here at the LEO). —Minda