Politics and Professional Practice – keep it to yourself or wear your heart on your sleeve?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Politics and Professional Practice – keep it to yourself or wear your heart on your sleeve?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 19 total)
  • Author
  • #168330
    Tanya Olson


    Yesterday when I went to meet a client for their initial consultation I was served a world of sh*t by the potential client for political bumper stickers I have on my car. I, of course, responded politely and obliquely…I have great relationships and have worked on legislation in my state with people of dramatically different politics; I consider this key to the Democratic process.

    But….If I hadn’t been referred to them by their builder, who I have known for many years, I doubt I would have gotten the job.


    My car is old, the bumper stickers from before I started my own business….If I got a newer car, would I put political stickers on it? I’m really torn. I love politics and want to support candidates I believe in but I don’t want to lose work or get in arguements with clients over politics.  


    Have any of you had this kind of thing happen? Have you been asked by employers to take off bumper stickers (I know, I know, first amendment rights) to ‘keep the peace’? Do you just keep your mouth shut and go by the addage ‘politics, religion and work don’t mix’?


    It’s a bumper sticker democracy.

    I listen to what I would consider ‘propaganda’ from both sides almost every day in the workplace. I almost never divulge my opinion. What’s the old saying? ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’

    I like to think the people I come in contact with everyday can’t even guess where I stand, right or left. Knowing where they come from helps me understand the decisions they make and how I might be able to predict their response to something and use it to my advantage.

    Thomas J. Johnson

    One morning at work, while I was making coffee (before office hours) a female co-worker, out of the blue, told me that I needed to vote NO on Proposition 8 (Essentially voting yes to gay marriage). She didn’t ask how I was going to vote. She told me how I SHOULD vote. It caught me so off guard, I didn’t even know what to say… I don’t care what my co-workers politics are and I don’t expect them to tell me what mine should be.

    One numerous occasions, group AD marker sessions would turn political. I’m sorry, but I have a hard time swallowing liberal rhetoric while we’re working on a rendering for the king of Saudi Arabia. See the irony? They didn’t….

    I guess to get back to your question, I don’t think work is the place for political discussions. It has nothing to do with the task at hand and only works to create unnecessary drama and divide the office. Keep your politics to yourself…

    Having political bumper stickers on your car, should probably stop in college. As you’ve experienced, it can jeopardize relationships with co-workers, clients and contractors. By voicing your political leanings, you are essentially reducing your potential income in half.

    As an interesting aside, it seems that most developers and contractors are conservative while most architects/ landscape architects have liberal leanings. I don’t adhere to one party or the other. I don’t vote the party line. I take on each issue individually. I refuse to identify as liberal or conservative. I’m neither. I suppose, if anything, I’m libertarian. Don’t bother me and I won’t bother you. Discussing politics at work bothers me.


    Maybe it’s just being stuck in Northern Colorado, but I don’t *think* I’ve encountered a liberal in months.

    Jason T. Radice

    Why ruin a perfectly good automobile?

    I never put anything on my cars…period. I take the dealer logo off, I take the dealer plate frame off, and if I need a window sticker, I make it easily removable. Just think of all those people who have stickers on their cars and are having second thoughts about their support or ideology…ever try to take a bumper sticker off??? Not fun.

    Bumper stickers, no matter what they are for, peg you. Just as your car does (btw, if you drive a Prius, you really don’t need the bumper stickers) Frankly, I don’t care who you are voting for, what group you support, what your Calvin is relieving himself on, whether your fish has legs or not, and if your kid is an honor student. Nobody else does either. Besides, political stickers are a great way to get your car keyed or vandalized.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    If you want to display your fellings you have to be prepared for reaction. I don’t think it is wrong to display your political feelings, but you have to know that feedom is a dialogue and not a monologue. Celebrating a position is much like anteing up in a poker game – maybe no one else chips in, but someone may raise you and call. As long as you have no problem with the consequences, it is fine. … unless you use your car at work and are not self employed.

    Keep in mind that a lot of projects need to be reviewed by various boards or groups with varying agendas. You might score here and get killed over there. My opinion is that it is not very professional to do anything that compromises diplomacy when working in an arena of varying interests in the private sector. People absolutely project stereotypes on people based on things like bumper stickers or a minor opinion here or there. Ironically, I was recently slammed for being a wishy washy liberal on this forum while several times in the past I’ve been torn up for being right wing. I’m guessing that my address (MA) got me the liberal label and my alma-mater (Idaho) got me the right wing tag. People are going to jump to conclusions anyway. It is up to your comfort how much you want to fuel that.

    It is foolish to display political views and expect that everyone will agree with them or shut up. As long as you accept the consequences from the public, clients, co-workers, and employers, it is OK.

    It is also like posting in these forums in that you enter a discussion that takes a life of its own which may be beneficial, benign, or harmful. You never know. You just have to decide whether it is worth it to you or not.

    Nate Hommel

    I generally try to keep things like politics and religion at home and I try very hard to not discuss those topics in the work place or in the field. You just never know who you are going to encounter, but there are times where you can let your views stand out. If you have a good relationship with a client/coworker/contractor then it might be appropriate. I am heavily involved with client and contractor communication and these topics come up often, I either skate around them or just listen and subtly change the subject.

    Noah Mabry

    I have very strong political views I, and I have a play it by ear attitude on mixing politics and work. This mostly goes for coworkers though. For example I worked in a small architecture office during the 2008 election and the principles had me hang a large Obama poster on the wall. It was the first thing you saw when you walked in. Needless to say we all had pretty much the same viewpoint, so no-one was offended, but I really wondered what potential clients visiting the office would think.

    My attitude on clients I deal with directly is generally “do not engage….danger will robinson, do not engage!” My old car had some bumperstickers, but my curent vehicle has nothing but the factory Saab logo. I totally agree with Jason’s thoughts on bumper decor…no one really cares, except when they disagree – then they really care. I don’t think there’s any reason to unnecessarily rile up potential clients. There’s plenty of time to argue over issues that are pertinent to the relationship (design/construction methods/costs etc).

    All this being said, there are some issues that will get me to voice an opinion. I’ve experienced people making racial and sexist type comments and that’s something that, politics aside, deserves a reply.

    Jennifer de Graaf

    I never share ideas on politics, religion, or anything else that is polarizing when on the job. I stick strictly to “safe” subjects. My car is unmarked, and on the few occasions when someone at the office has asked me about my views, I’ve simply declined to discuss it in the nicest way I could. Unless it is part of the design program, I don’t see how these topics are relevant to either professional relationships or the design work.

    Cliff See

    hi, best to avoid heated opinions that do not pertain to the task at hand… having patience is sublime and simple, the greatest of all inaction…

    its okay to discuss politics politely with an open mind, but i never let political views get in the way of friendships and professional relationships… after all, we are grown up enough to think for ourselves right?

    besides, doubt you are going to sway anyone’s personal logic with an old bumper sticker.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    What is a bumper sticker?

    It is a label you put on yourself.

    Tanya Olson

    …and I don’t mind labels…I personally think they’re kind of interesting and I like the funny ones….I like personal expression, I don’t like blandness.
    I think the conflict for me is that I deeply believe in a society where vastly different views can be expressed openly – yes, I agree that if I am going to publicly express my views that I should be prepared for opposing views – but an attack is not an opposing view, its just an attack. Or maybe thats the way we’re expressing views these days.

    Ironically, toward the end of our consultation the guy muttered something about ‘you gotta stand up for what you believe in’. I have no idea if he was talking about himself or me. His poor wife was absolutley mortified.

    IN the end the person I’m most concerned about preserving the relationship with is the contractor, who doesn’t care what my politics are even though they are opposite his. I just don’t want him to have to listen to an earful from the client. ‘You can pick you friends, and you can pick your politics, but you can’t pick your friend’s politics.’

    Sounds like the vast majority of you keep it at a healthy distance from professional life.


    When the results of the 2008 presidential election came in, I wrote “We Won!!!” in soap on the back window of my pickup. It was the first time I felt jubilant and celebratory about ANYTHING in many months. The owner of my company saw it and told me to wash it off. “Don’t rub it in. I don’t rub it in.” he said. I didn’t think that was fair as it was on my property and could have referred to anything, but I complied. Not much I can take pleasure in, and he had to squash it. I only had a tiny oval “Obama-Biden” sticker before then. Back in 2004, when I was with another office, I had to deal with gloating co-workers. It annoyed me so much I took a walk outside to cool off. I’ve always kept my leanings to myself in that I don’t initiate political discussions. As others have noted, I think its inappropriate for work. Depending on your position and leanings, you may be creating a hostile work environment for someone else. I once had a supervisor who would listen to Limbaugh while we drove around to various jobsites. I thought I was in hell. Occasionally I’d get fed up and interject a contrary opinion, but debate isn’t my strong suit and I tend to avoid it. Being in a government job, I was more safe than in the private sector.

    Years ago I was a volunteer firefighter. Among their rules was an order to not discuss politics or religion in the firehouse, as it created arguments. I think companies should have similar rules in the interest of maintaining harmonious office environments. We are people before we are professionals, and it can be difficult to keep one’s personal views out of the professional life, especially if one feels that a particular parties’ positions are affecting the economy and one’s ability to professionally thrive.

    Jon A. Niedzwiecki

    I’m newbie here and generally self employed. Very good discussion on most points. I have been told upon #’s of occasion that driving the old worn vehicle is as much a statement/negative as the bumper stickers. It’s all image making. Are you aware of, are you invested in, and can you maintane the image you are presenting?

    Trace One

    Yes, we mostly have to learn to keep our politics to ourselves, Tanya, but I do agree with your interest in political expression..It is so difficult to talk politics in the US these days (a point I was trying to make in an earlier post) that we opt just not to do it..I think that is to our detriment – we need to learn to be able to talk politics, as a culture..I don’t mean the screen-gods like Glenn Beck, I mean everyone – people like Glenn Beck wouldn not get so much traction if we could all talk politics, leftees and righties..and in-betweenies..I think as a culture we are very uneducated and inarticulate, politically, and part of it is this repression we all excercize (usually after a few life experiences!) on our political opinions..
    It is one of the few things I like about my job..I am open about my political persuasion here, and can actually have political DISCUSSIONS without loosing a client or my job..One still has to be VERY careful..
    We had all these Prop 8 posters in one girls cubicle, in our squad, but it was obvious it was not something one wanted to talk about with her..
    But we do, as a nation, need to be able to articulate..As far as I know the French talk politics…Not that it got them a better system, or to manage to avoid shame in the World Cup (HA!)…But I think it is better for your heart..
    I’m a Democrat, born and bred in the briar patch – my dad worked for Bobby Kennedy in an anti-mafia squad in the Riverhead DA’s office..
    I am not saying all Dems are great, or follow Dem principles, but the traditional idea of the difference between repubs and dems puts me square in the Dem camp..if anyone cares!!
    : )

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 19 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Lost Password