© Wes Gow
Let's pretend that you own a business, one that's large enough for you to be looking to make a hire. Let's also pretend that this isn't just any hire. Without splitting hairs, and for the sake of this illustration, let's say that it's a management position, one that will have influence in your company.
You've crafted a job description and now you're looking to pay someone to perform the duties you've outlined. In reviewing subsequent applications, you're essentially looking to answer two questions:
1) can you do the job?
2) are you a good fit?
Pretty simple so far.
Question #1 is fairly easy to deduce, at least in comparison to #2, and in time you zero in on someone who you believe is most capable to accomplish the job.
Now for the tricky part: are they a good fit? But not only that, can your culture and brand be trusted in their hands?
So far we could be talking about any entity or context ranging from a Fortune 500 company to a suburban popsicle stand. Either way, skill and ability alone are only half the equation. Fit matters.
Being the good hiring manager or boss that you are, and given the nature of this particular higher-level position, you conduct a routine investigation into this applicant's social media platforms. (Btw, if Harvard does it, then you should at least consider it).
Given the posts and comments on the applicant's feed, it's immediately clear that they are very passionate about a certain cause. (It's not important here what it is, but let's give the benefit of the doubt and say that it's actually good and worthwhile for living things; it does no harm). You continue to scroll and can easily conclude that quite a lot of this person's time, energy, and resources are being spent on this cause.
* Stop right there. If we're honest, and if you've ever been in this position, then you're beginning to wonder now if this applicant's passions and interests are going to conflict with their ability to perform the duties in the job description.
[I was being interviewed myself once when the hiring manager asked the standard question, "So where do you see yourself in five years?" I responded by saying that in addition to remaining a contributing member of the team, I was also interested in further investing in myself, possibly in the way of ongoing eduction but most certainly in a manner that would add value to my role and the company.
The VP immediately sat up and bluntly voiced her concern over that response, citing that my personal aspirations and professional development ought not to impede or interfere with my performance. I didn't get the job.]
You keep scrolling.
Suddenly, you come across a video posted on their timeline of the applicant purposefully and willfully sitting during the national anthem in a public context in an effort to raise awareness for their cause. Of course no one standing around them in the video knows who this person is, but you see that the video has garnered a lot of comments, many of them not supportive.
Now, aside from the question of the sheer amount of resources the applicant is channeling toward this cause, a second, more serious question emerges: are their passions and interests going to negatively impact or influence the culture of your company or the integrity of your brand? You may even cringe at the thought of seeing a selfie with your logo in the background alongside the posts and comments on this feed.
Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) is the controversial former NFL quarterback who is passionate about a worthy cause. (I say "former" because at the time of this writing he's currently unemployed). However, both his passions and interests, and his chosen means of drawing attention to them by way of kneeling during the national anthem, are leaving all 32 NFL owners hesitant to offer Colin a job.
Question #1 isn't an issue. Can he perform the duties of an NFL quarterback? That answer seems to be resoundingly "yes." He's quite good, at least good enough to land a back up position somewhere.
Question #2 is the rub. Is he a good fit? Because here's what every owner and general manager and coach in the NFL knows: as soon as Colin is hired, their facilities will be filled with microphones and cameras and legal pads and press passes for reasons entirely unrelated to the job description they hired him to perform.
And there's really no way to classify that as anything short of a distraction.
Now, many are crying foul play on behalf of the owners and the commissioner of the NFL. But let's review three very simple facts:
FACT 1: Colin acted of his own free will. (Ironically, the NFL owners are now doing the same).
FACT 2: Sitting or kneeling in protest of (or during) the national anthem is NOT against the law. In fact, we could restate that in such a way that celebrates the freedom we have in this country that one may choose to act in this way without fear of being grabbed and bagged and vanished from the face of the earth.
FACT 3: The above action negatively impacts your personal brand.
It doesn't destroy your brand or forever ruin your reputation, but sitting or kneeling in protest of (or during) the national anthem absolutely draws attention to yourself in a manner that is controversial at best.
And bosses and hiring managers and employers of all kinds and sizes are well within their right to be slow in their consideration of making that person an offer.
I hope Colin gets a job, as I would hope for anyone. But my key takeaway from this tale is as follows: impassioned soul, take your stand (or your knee), but do so with the understanding of the narrative you are writing, and with an acceptance of the metaphysical parameters of this reality.
To put this another way, be careful of the means of your raising awareness overshadowing the message of your cause.