It’s a keen sign of our times where unprecedented political and social divides are necessitating companies, groups and organizations of all types thoroughly and thoughtfully consider who and what they publicly say, support and endorse. It is a reality being painfully realized this week by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.
After endorsing Republican Michigan Attorney General Bill Scheutte for governor, a firestorm has erupted on social media and otherwise with no less than 50 area companies quickly announcing plans to terminate their Chamber memberships. Such companies include Founders Brewing Company, the state’s largest brewery and makers of Michigan products exported worldwide.
The furor stems from member concerns about Schuette’s stance on LGBT rights, particularly as they relate to the workplace. A letter from former members to the Chamber this week asked it to reconsider its endorsement saying: “Mr. Schuette’s agenda is directly at odds with the Chamber’s positioning itself as a diversity and inclusion chamber.” For its part, the GRCC, a business-focused organization, endorsed Schuette for his pro-business policy positions. Yet, as the protest letter suggests, it didn’t also consider other important mission pillars.
It’s a lesson for anyone and everyone when publicly announcing you are backing a hot button issue or candidate to carefully consider all of your audiences and those you represent. Vet the issue with a board, advisory group or other internal/external constituencies to think through and discuss all aspects of the pending decision in order to anticipate and identify potential backlash and pushback. Remember, these are politically-charged times but issues always come back to impact people. And, to borrow and amend another time-worn phrase: Think before – or forever lose your peace.