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I'm in a situation where we are trying to staff a project for a relatively junior role that was vacated earlier this year. It's an engineering role with certain skills requirements. The potential candidate has coverage over all the core skills and has a level of seniority that gives him enough prior work experience to be productive but at a price point that we can afford.

The project manager and I are clashing a bit because this person posts a lot of political opinions on Linked. As far as I can tell, all the posts are comments under articles or posts that are already political in nature. Most of these issues are relatively divisive along the lines of the sort of stuff you hear regularly coming out of the American political left and right.

Here's the rub. I suspect that the issue here is not merely that this individual shouldn't be commenting about politics as a matter of principle. I've seen plenty of other individuals sharing posts about topics that I would consider political issues today. This individual, however, does not orient to the stated politics of the company which lean very heavily in one direction, mostly along the lines of the mainstream coverage.

I should also say that I believe that it's unwise and unprofessional to talk about political topics at work, and I never do so myself.

How should I approach this matter without sounding like I support this individual's politics, and without getting into a tit for tat about equivalent political posts by others?

The person making the hiring decision is my boss’ boss.

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    @AffableAmbler It sounds like the problem is that the manager belongs to one tribe and the prospective engineer belongs to the other tribe - and possibly that the manager is worried about blowback from other members of his tribe for hiring him, because wrongthinkers must be punished by being fired from their jobs.
    – nick012000
    Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 21:56
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    IMHO LinkedIn is professional networking tool. Not for advancing any personal political agenda. There is plethora of other platforms where you can state it. Person, making political comments on LinkedIn, would very likely be politically outspoken in the workplace
    – Strader
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 2:35
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    Not sure hiring based on political orientation is allowed. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 7:48
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    This individual, however, does not orient to the stated politics of the company... Is this something like, "This is a construction company that wants an infrastructure bill to pass and the candidate has been vocally against the bill", or "This is a construction company that wants an infrastructure bill to pass and the candidate has been vocal against the party trying to pass it but not the bill itself", or is "the stated politics of the company" just code for the personal politics of the CEO?
    – BSMP
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 8:34
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    In other words, is this candidate's politics actually in opposition to how the company operates, does it just appear that that it might be, or is it a conflict of personal politics with the people in charge? I don't think it necessarily matters in your specific case since the PM isn't making the hiring decision but it would matter in a more general case.
    – BSMP
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 8:38

4 Answers 4

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How should I approach this matter without sounding like I support this individual's politics, and without getting into a tit for tat about equivalent political posts by others?

Since (as you indicated in your comments) apparently your boss's boss is the decision maker here, you really don't need to approach this matter at all. Neither you nor the project manager seem to have rights to hire or rights to veto the hire of this individual.

If your opinion on the candidate is sought, your should provide your honest assessment of their fit, including the impact of these online political comments, if you think there is actually an impact.

Your boss's boss can choose to take your input (and the input of the project manager) into account or to ignore it.

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  • There's the other angle too. What can OP do to let the potential hire know about the stated and actual company positions on politics? When I hire, I try to be clear to candidates about our positions. Often, candidates can then make the right decision themselves.
    – Jeffrey
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 16:55
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I think the pertinent question you have to ask yourself here is: Do you believe that this person will be able to competently do their job given that their politics do not align with the company's? That's really the only thing that matters, whether or not this person will do the thing you're paying them to do, at the expected level that you are paying them to do it. The rest doesn't matter, unless you make it matter.

Part of answering this question is how public the company's politics are. Does your company make it publicly known that their politics lean a particular way? If so, then it is probably reasonable to assume that this applicant knows about your politics and doesn't care; they want to work for you and do their best job despite your political differences (or they could be up to something nefarious, but I'll leave that aside for the moment; without knowing you or them I'm not going to jump to such a conclusion. I merely wanted to make note of it). If this is the case, it seems logical to me to conclude that this issue is your problem, not the applicant's problem, and that your company (or perhaps you in particular) believe this to be a dealbreaker and not the applicant.

Which itself begs the question: Are you hiring people with the skill to do the best job, or are you hiring people whose politics agree with your own (I presume you're not an officially politically-aligned organization and this is only a question of workplace culture)? You really should be doing the former; "hire and develop the best" is one of Amazon's Leadership Principles for a reason, and Jeff Bezos has the money to send his phallic rocket into space because that's how he runs his business. If your CEO wants to send his own phallic rocket into orbit, perhaps they should be more concerned with things like that rather than whether whose politics align which way. If the person joins the company and finds that he is made uncomfortable due to the politics of those around him, that's his choice to make, whether to leave at that point, but in my opinion this shouldn't enter into a hiring discussion, if you want to hire based on proficiency and not irrelevant side-issues like politics. Of course, you (and your boss) are free to disagree with my opinion, and perhaps political orthodoxy is a condition of employment at your company, which would be irresponsible in my opinion, but that's a choice you can choose to make.

Now, the above is all assuming that the applicant is aware of the politics of the company he wishes to join. That's not necessarily true, and, depending on the applicant, it may not have been a question they thought of/wanted to ask. If you have concerns in that domain, about whether the person would be a good "culture fit", you may want to volunteer this information: "At our company, we love CNN and we do whatever Master Don Lemon instructs us. Are you OK with that?", and see what he says (I'm exaggerating for comedic effect, of course, but you get the point). Perhaps he'll say, of his own volition, "no, I don't want to work for that kind of company", and that's the end of that. He may also say "you can have whatever politics you want; I'm here to do a job and make money, and as long as I'm doing those things, I couldn't care less about your politics", and then you can take him at face value (or not). But the least you can do is to make him aware of the issue and give him the choice, if he passes all your other metrics for hiring.

Here's the thing: If you assume about a person's behaviour based on their politics, well, then that's you, assuming. And you know what happens when you assume? You make an ASS, of U and ME. Don't make an ass of yourself.

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    Professionalism as i see it is one of the criteria for candidate. Soft skills should be considered a factor as well.
    – Strader
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 2:37
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    @Strader Exactly. If a person can disagree with you politically but also be professional at the office, that's enough. A person does not need to agree with you in all aspects in order to be professional.
    – Ertai87
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 15:21
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I actually wouldn't hire this person. Not because of what his political beliefs are, but because of his poor judgement skills and potential team fit. He's posting his political opinions. Not just on Facebook, Twitter, etc where its to his social group, but to LinkedIn. To a business networking site. If he does that there, rather than in private forums, you can imagine what he's going to be like at work. He's not going to be neutral. He's not going to be quiet. He's going to be loud, obnoxious, and in everyone's face about it. He's going to cause problems.

This goes for either direction. I have my political opinions, and anyone on Facebook knows about them. Friends at work know about them. But you won't see them on my LinkedIn, you just get resume and contact info. You won't find me on my company slack yelling them. The guy doesn't know when to shut up and where appropriate venues for different conversations are. He's going to be more trouble than he's worth.

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    This, is the right answer. Hire a strong political-opinionated person is a high risk to the company unless your company's business happens to be lobbying for the political side that person shares.
    – Nobody
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 5:20
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    @Nobody It's not even that he's strongly opinionated. If he was strongly opinionated but kept it to outside the company, that's fine. But he's posting it in a place that's only associated with business. You know he's going to constantly be bringing it up in the workplace. Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 14:05
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Reading between the lines, I sense that this prospective candidate may lean conservative (right). You said along mainstream lines (moderate to liberal in the USA) and that "you dont want to be seen as sharing his opinions" Therefore, even if his politics leans right, I suspect this may not be mainstream conservative, but hard , far right wing.

If the comments are objectively offensive / demeaning, such that you think he would make others in the workplace uncomfortable, I would let the project manager know, and maybe your n+1 boss. Generally comments of this type fall into categories of discrimination towards protected groups by law, harassment, incitement to unlawful violence, or promoting harm to others etc. I am fairly active on social media such as twitter or facebook and I have seen commentary that are undoubtely and objectively offensive, and comments which are mereely unpopular but not causing offense / objective harm.

If on the other hand, these comments are merely his personal opinions that be unpopular / distasteful, but not objectively offensive, then I would let him be, and leave the subject matter alone.

In any case, dont push your opinion either way, but just state your concerns if they could hurt the company via being objectively offensive.

Take a step back and evaluate the prospective candidates activity not through the lens of your personal views, but whether they could make others uncomfortable, and are objectively offensive

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