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Should my employee be allowed to wear a MAGA hat?

Dear CEO —

My employee keeps wearing a red MAGA hat at work.

And people are complaining left and right…

We figured Mr. Maga was pretty conservative, based on lunchroom talk. No problem with that.

But the MAGA hat? That has a lot of people talking and our once-happy office has become tense.

Three people on my team asked me what I, as the department manager, was going to do about it.

I said I would think about it, hoping it would blow over.

But now he’s wearing the cap every single day. He never seems to take it off. Some people say he’s wearing it specifically to irritate them.

This is causing his colleagues to avoid working with him on our latest project.

What should I do about our MAGA-proud colleague?

– “Ms. Seeing Red,” Atlanta, GA

How would you respond?

Tell us how you would handle this here. And then scroll below to read the CEO’s answer.

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What do I do about my MAGA-loving employee?

Dear Ms. Seeing Red,

I hear you. I’ve dealt with several dress code issues in my career, including a woman wearing a very provocative T-shirt saying, “Don’t look at my boobs.” (After she managed to embarrass multiple people, I heard about it and had her put on a sweater.)

If only people would naturally know what’s appropriate for the workplace.

In your case, it’s a red MAGA hat. That red hat, promoting Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again movement, isn’t just a hat. It’s making a statement – and to some — a controversial political statement. Just as many people might feel a certain type of a way if someone wore a “Jail Trump” shirt.

And you said the magic words: “It’s affecting our work.” As the boss, you need to do something.

But what exactly? You need a well-considered, balanced approach before you plunge into the great Red-Blue divide in your office. Let’s break it into steps.

  1. Review your company’s policy: Before taking any action, consult your company's dress code and policies. If you have an HR team, they can help. Is there a policy in place that addresses wearing political or controversial attire? If so, your job becomes a lot easier. If not, you can still express the company’s intention.

  1. Talk privately with your MAGA supporter. Be direct but not confrontational. Focus on the workplace environment rather than personal beliefs. For example, you can say, "I've received some feedback about your hat. I understand that you have the right to your personal beliefs, but we need to maintain a neutral work environment. We can’t allow clothes that make an overt political statement."

  1. Refer to the policy if you have one. State the specific provision in the dress code policy that the hat violates. This makes it clear that your concern is not about the employee's personal beliefs but rather about maintaining company standards and a distraction-free workplace.

  1. Listen actively. Allow the employee to express their perspective. Don’t interrupt other than to ask questions to seek more understanding. This may also provide clues into how to best manage them moving forward.

    In the example I mentioned above, my employee told me she knew how provocative she was being. She was just tired of people constantly looking down at her breasts – something that bothers a lot of women. We had a good discussion about how her shirt wasn’t an appropriate response.

  1. Hold firm, but don’t fight. It’s quite impossible that your employee will try to fight you on this. Remain calm and keep talking about the need to maintain a good working environment. If your hat wearer says it’s his right, you point out that’s not true in a private business (if you’re curious about the legality here, SHRM has a great rundown here).

    If he says it’s everyone else’s problem and not his, you point out the policy, written or not. If he talks about clothes other people have worn to the office, you ask him if it’s still happening and say you’ll look into it.

  1. Document everything. Type up notes on everything you’ve discussed. It could become important if legal action were to ever arise.

  1. Be balanced in your enforcement. You can’t allow any other overtly political or provocative clothing either. That means no statements about being pro-choice, pro-life, or stances on other divisive issues.

  1. Advocate for a written policy. If your company doesn’t have an adequate policy to address these situations, offer to help write one.

The best result here is to enable everyone’s best work – free of these distractions. Your job isn’t to make everyone happy – which may not be possible anyway. Your job is to foster a focused working environment that enables people to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

Good luck with Mr. MAGA and getting your peaceful office back!


Your Turn…

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