Mark Cuban on politics in the workplace: Leaders 'should listen rather than tell' — and never value their own opinion over others'

  • The election is approaching, and recent controversies show that organizations like the NBA, Hobby Lobby, and Delta are struggling with how to handle the political divide in a work setting.
  • A recent survey found more than half of Americans say people should be prohibited from displays of political expression at work.
  • Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban told Business Insider that leaders should listen to employees and stakeholders to learn the best solution for a company's culture — after all, their opinion is what matters the most.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As controversies around political expression in the workplace flare up in organizations like the NBA, Hobby Lobby, Goodyear Tire, and Delta, it may seem hard to find the appropriate balance of professionalism and individual liberty.

More than half of the 20,283 Americans surveyed by consumer research firm Piplsay say that workers should be prohibited from displays of political expression, but 46% still believe companies should take a public stand on political issues.

Business Insider reached out to Mark Cuban, the billionaire entrepreneur, 'Shark Tank' investor, and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, for his advice to employers about navigating these touchy topics.

Companies "should communicate with their employees and stakeholders. They should listen rather than tell," Cuban said in an email. "Every company has its own culture that they have defined and your employees and stakeholders can educate management on how to best love up to that culture."

Delta demonstrated this commitment to its team members when it designed a special Black Lives Matter pin for employees to wear — a pin that is not available for sale to the public.

"We have a lot of work to do for true equity to be within reach for the Black community, and it's part of our culture to represent efforts our customers and our employees care about," a Delta spokesman told the New York Post.

American tire maker Goodyear incurred the Twitter wrath of President Donald Trump for its decision to ban campaign apparel from the workplace, and Cuban referenced the NBA's practice courts as an example of an open forum for personal expression. 

In response to a question about whether players could show their support for Donald Trump or for family members who chose careers in law enforcement, Cuban tweeted "Yes. And of course, many do."

He further pointed to partnerships his Mavericks organization has had with the Dallas Police Department over the years.

When it comes to smaller businesses faced with these decisions, Cuban told us the choices should be much simpler.

"Smaller companies are usually driven by an entrepreneur that knows their people well," he said. "They are closer to their customers and know their perspective and they are more aware of the consequences of their decisions."

Although the respondents in the Piplsay survey were fairly split over where political issues belong, two-thirds said they expect companies to be "completely transparent" about financial contributions to political causes.

In the case of Goodyear, the company has made a distinction between political expression "in support of any candidate or political party" and individual support for social issues, including "both law enforcement and equal justice."

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