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Advice | Ask Damon: My boss brought in political signs. I do not share his opinion.


Hi Damon: About a month ago, I started a part-time gig at a local franchise chain. I am a 46 year old woman who finds herself working with a mixed group of peers between the ages of 15 and 19. I like the work and my teammates. They are hardworking, honest and really ignore all stereotypes of ‘young people today’. As a married, childless person, I am also aware that these are young adults, and I try not to share anything too personal or that I think is too “adult.”

However, the owner/operator started bringing political signs (from a certain conservative group) into the shop over the weekend. When I first saw the signs, I think all the blood had drained from my face and my colleagues could see that something was wrong. It really caught me off guard when I worked for a government agency and thought I didn’t have to worry about “politics” during my part-time gig. Many opinions were expressed and situations shared (including some saying that if their parents really knew how they were thinking/feeling they would be kicked out of the house), and I think I probably should have kept a few comments to myself.

While they weren’t blatant, what am I supposed to do now that I’ve shared a bit more about my opinion than I intended? And how do I stay neutral in the workplace? You’ve probably guessed that my conservative owner/manager’s political views are inconsistent with mine and you’re absolutely right. I’ve stopped working in the past when the company’s values ​​didn’t align with my own, but can this part-time gig be salvaged?

— Politically challenged

Politically challenged: What does it mean to be an ethical consumer? An ethical worker? These are questions that float in and out of the atmosphere, like summer dandelion seeds — or, better yet, like dust — always there to feel and grapple with, so ubiquitous you hardly remember they’re there. The reality is that there must be negotiations to join society, which means that what is “ethical” exists on a curve.

For example, is it ethical to buy a composter from a store that has contributed to deforestation? The people who work at this paper are some of the most gifted, rigorous, and conscientious people in this industry, and yet one might ask, “How can they be so conscientious when they work for the richest man in the world?” and no answer would be great.

What I’m saying here is that if you pull back the curtain far enough and research all the CEOs and owners and managers and board members you’ve served, I’m sure you’ll have political and/or moral justification for putting any place to leave. (Including, of course, your job at the government agency.) The main difference here is that your boss’s beliefs are too obvious to ignore.

Do you have a question for Damon? Submit it here or email askdamon@washpost.com.

So, what should you do? There are levels of offense and you need to determine where the line is for you. These plates you saw – did you see him carrying them from his car to his closed office, or is the restaurant littered with them now? Or, for example, let’s say you learned that your boss is pro-gun. Did you find that out because of an NRA bumper sticker on his truck, or did he come to work one day wearing a T-shirt that says Black Rifles Matter? Does that distinction, between the more subtle political persuasion and the deliberately provocative one, matter to you? If so, is that enough to quit a job?

I honestly don’t think it’s realistic today to be politically neutral at work. (Even the suggestion of political neutrality is a prerogative exclusive to white Americans. For non-white people, something as mundane and innocuous as our haircuts or even our first names could be considered political statements by employers.) And I don’t think it’s possible to go back on your beliefs or what you shared with your colleagues. Even if you were, I don’t think you should. Perhaps you can add some context to give your teenage colleagues a more nuanced political perspective, but hold your ground. And how would the mechanism to make them run back even work? (“Hi guys. Remember everything I said last Tuesday about LGBTQ rights? I was just kidding!”)

If your boss’s beliefs are in direct contradiction to your values, and this causes you enough spiritual consternation to ask for advice about it, I think you should stop. And if you have the chance, I think you should tell him why. If this was your full-time job, maybe my advice would be different. But I guess you can still get a part-time, food-related job, so why stay at a job that forces you to even ask these questions?

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