03 / 11 / 2020

Keep Your Opinions to Yourself (Or There Are People Behind You, Doofus)

We’ve all seen people who show no regard for the people around them — who stop as soon as they step off an escalator or block the passing lane on a highway. But what about when the person is the CEO of a company?

Carey Smith | Founding Contrarian

What makes some CEOs think that part of their job is to chime in from the comfort of their Herman Miller chairs and tell people how to vote?

We were one of the 10 million customers who received the email from Expensify CEO David Barrett informing us that voting for anyone other than Democrat Joe Biden was a vote against democracy. WTF?

A bonehead move like that, in my book, just shows complete contempt for other people — it’s like stopping in your tracks at the top of an escalator, with no concern for the bodies piling up behind you. We all have expectations that other people will behave in certain ways, and when they don’t, there can be hell to pay.

For a CEO to try to impose a personal opinion on anyone, especially an opinion that is almost certain to cost the company some business, is an incredibly irresponsible thing to do, in my book. It shows a total disregard for the employees who depend on you for their jobs and the others who trust you to act in their best interests: say, for example, the investors who’ve handed your company millions of dollars.

At the fan company, I caused a bit of a brouhaha once when I wrote that then-candidate Donald Trump’s work as a real estate developer did not make him an entrepreneur. Our poor social media director had a hell of a weekend after that. But the only thing I ever tried to tell people unequivocally to do was to get a complimentary, on-site flu shot, and even that might have been overstepping, now that I think about it.

It’s one thing for a leader to try to encourage employees to eat broccoli or to explore the existential questions of Ingmar Bergman’s “Wild Strawberries.” But sending out a missive not just to employees but to 10 million customers imposing your political opinions and causing untold repercussions on the business and everyone involved in it? Where does he get off?

Oh yeah, I remember: At the top of the escalator, probably checking his phone. Meanwhile, everyone behind him is left to tumble like dominos.

Obviously, he can do whatever he wants. It’s a free country. He can drop trou, if that’s what he feels like doing. But there are consequences, and he won’t be the one to suffer the worst of them.