Tech sector has reason to work with Trump, even if it opposes his policies
© Getty Images

With President Trump’s creation of the American Technology Council, technology companies again face a choice of whether to work with the administration. While Trump has alienated much of Silicon Valley through early policy moves and rhetoric, the tech sector would err greatly if it refused to engage. Companies that offer disruptive products and services frequently push the envelope when it comes to regulation – there is simply no choice but to engage with Trump, both to ensure success and prevent regulatory crises.

To be sure, tech leaders confront a catch-22. If they work with Trump, they can risk the ire of their employees and customers and take reputational hits. However, if they do not work with the administration, they could risk their businesses (by burying their heads in the face of potential regulations) or miss opportunities to enhance their market position. It looks like a rock and a hard place, but it’s really not. Leaders should keep in mind three key points.

ADVERTISEMENT
First, this is not an either-or question. You can advocate publicly for diversity and other values you and your employees cherish while working with the administration on the regulatory issues impacting your business model. You can denounce the president’s policies that offend those values and still work with a cabinet agency on regulatory and legal issues. It is possible to walk and chew gum at the same time.

 

Second, for those companies operating in regulated markets, it is simply not an option to remain above the policymaking fray. Failure to anticipate and address both legitimate regulatory oversight and entrenched competitor opposition can be deadly, particularly to growing companies that lack the capital necessary for the kind of sustained legal and policy fights that emerge around innovative companies that gain traction. Doing nothing lets the problems fester and makes you a bigger and more vulnerable target for negative attention down the road.

Third, communicate and engage with your employees about what you are doing with policymakers and regulators. If you want your employees to understand what work you are doing with the administration and why you are doing it, you need to explain it, take feedback, and respond to the feedback. Showing transparency and a willingness for an open, ongoing dialogue will work wonders for preventing misunderstandings based on policy interactions and help defuse tensions and a potential rebellion. You value your employees. You show your respect in other ways. Show your respect on these issues.

We certainly do not underestimate the challenges the Trump administration poses for corporate leaders in every sector. This can be especially true for emerging companies, whose cultures are often built and depend on diverse workforces. But your and your employees’ opposition on certain core issues is no excuse to turn away completely from engaging policymakers who hold the government’s reins. The best way to manage through this thicket is to speak out on the national issues that matter most to your employees, connect with them on your outreach to those same powers that be – and ensure they have a job to go to the next day. 

Josh Galper and Adam Goldberg are co-founders of Trident DMG, a strategic communications and public affairs firm focusing on innovators and disruptors.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.