On the Other Hand, When Is It Right to Speak Out?


It may not be wise to urge your employees to vote for a certain party or a certain candidate – as one of my clients did in a company newsletter years ago. (A certain percentage of employees are bound to vote against the party or candidate just because the boss said the opposite!) It may not be a good idea to advocate for one side or another with regard to highly controversial issues.

But there are times when a business leader can effectively speak out on behalf of an important principle in public life, and taking a position will redound to the credit of the speaker and the company. During the civil rights struggle, some businesses began posting “Equal Opportunity Employer” in their offices and even in advertising to signal that they would not discriminate against minorities in hiring. Some of this may have been mere window dressing, but, sure enough, I began to see more members of minority communities showing up in office jobs, right here in the South. The tide of public opinion was turning, even here. I seriously doubt that any of these companies were penalized for positioning themselves as “Equal Opportunity Employers.”

Much more recently, some CEOs have taken bold stands against other kinds of discrimination, adopting the public position that they want to do business where they can hire the best-qualified people for the job, no matter their ethnicity, religion or lack thereof, disability, gender, gender orientation, etc., etc. And they want to create an atmosphere within their companies that is accepting of all kinds of able, talented human beings. CEOs of large companies particularly have the power to change society for the better when they do take a stand for the greater good.