Where Politics & Personality Don’t Seem To Intersect

Russell Saunders’s comment on a recent post of my knocked loose a box containing something I wanted to post about.

Back when I was in Deseret, the vast majority of my coworkers were somewhere to the right of center. It’s a Mormon part of the country and Mormons tilt to the right. It was a white collar employer, and white collar jobs are disproportionately taken by Mormons. The COO was the bishop of the local church, and people often got jobs through him. My own department, where word-of-mouth hiring expanded the rebellious gentile population’s network, was the only exception.

There was a guy who worked in Account Management who I will call Nick. Nick was the prototypical Super-Mormon, for good and for ill. Practically a Huntsman, though that wasn’t his name. He was ambitious and had a good work ethic. He had a family of five (at the time, nine now) to support, two kids by birth and one foreign-adopted. He had at least a touch of Mormon Male Entitlement Syndrome: God told him he was special and we had an obligation to respect that, or at least defer to His wisdom on the matter. For reasons I do not understand, he liked me. Professionally, we got along great. He was congenial on the surface, but also a bit frosty to people he perceived as Others. He was the type of guy who, when he thought someone had borrowed some of his cottage cheese, sent a company-wide email saying, in essence, “DON’T TOUCH MY STUFF!” But, in his sense of inners-and-outers, when I told him what had happened (I opened the fridge, his cottage cheese came tumbling out, and I spent half my lunch period cleaning the mess) he was all backslaps and no problems and the girls at the office sure do love to overstuff the fridge so we don’t have places to put things don’t they?

When I left, he was not one of the ones I was anxious to stay in contact with (to my detriment, now that I think about it, he is the type that would have written a stellar letter of recommendation).

I don’t know where I got the impression, but I had assumed, without even assuming, that he was a pretty hard core Republican. The guy exemplified a type of Republicanism. The type of Republicanism I am less fond of, to be sure, but all the same. When he sent me a friend request on Facebook, I fully expected to see that he had a business degree from BYU, that he was LDS, and that he was a Republican.

I was one for four. He got a political science degree from [Deseret] State University. He is, in fact, LDS (Not much of a guess on my part. I’ve never tagged anyone with MMES that wasn’t LDS). But he is a Democrat. And feels comfortable enough about this, even working in an office full of Republicans that fired its legal counsel because he was gay and under a family heavily involved in local Republican politics. I was impressed not only that he wasn’t entirely who I thought he was, but that he wasn’t shy about it. It makes me think that I did not know him as well as I thought I did.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. Will! Were you stereotyping? Shame on you.

    (Yeah, we all do it and I’d have made the same assumption you did.)

  2. For what it’s worth, this is where I find “letting it all hang out” comes in handy. In the lab we sometimes have what we call “Philosophy Friday”. If you come in and three or more of us are in there, we’re probably talking about something *HEAVY*. Abortion. Single Payer Health Care. Welfare. Divorce Law. Gay Marriage

    All kinds of stuff.

    There are folks that you know you can talk about stuff with. There are folks that you know you can’t. You can’t always guess who is going to be whom… there’s one guy on the left who assumes that, if you disagree with him, it’s because you watch Fox and love Fox and think that Fox News is the Word of God. You can disagree with him from the *LEFT*, and he’ll argue with you as if he were arguing with someone who watches nothing but Fox News. There are some of the most brilliant programmers I’ve ever met who dream in code who are Young Earth Creationists.

    And there are plenty of folks who are still trying to figure stuff out.

    Letting it all hang out makes figuring this stuff out possible. Fridays are a lot more fun.

    • Most of the better places I’ve worked have been like this in some way, shape or form.

      Most of the crappy-ass places I’ve worked have not been like this at all.

      • I think I have uniformly worked at crappy-ass places. Almost all of my employers have been staffed with conservatives, liberals, or a segregated portion of the two*.

        * – The aforementioned Deseret employer fell into this category. My team was liberal. The conservatives – Mormons – got promoted out as they came through and the rest were hired mostly through the team and networking (and therefore more likely to be like individuals).

  3. You’d figure he’d be the type of guy to have read Spencer Johnson, though.

    • Inspirational books (and corporate organizational books and concepts) are *very* popular in Mormonland. I produced a series of comic strips on my employer’s attempts to implement them, based on the 7 Habits craze.

  4. I was once a Reagan Republican now I am an Obama Democrat. Yet I still consider myself to be the same person, only wiser and more experienced.

    Yet I can identify plenty of “liberals” who had an authoritarian streak a mile wide, and “conservatives” who felt compelled to care for others.

    I still describe myself as having a conservative personality, somewhat patriarchal in my relationships.

  5. I stopped talking politics with co-workers after a stint at a certain big-box store in Northern Georgia. Made the boneheaded choice of discussing foreign policy with a recent hire who turned out to be a huge war monger, which ended with us raising our voices enough for everyone in the breakroom to look over at us like we were mental patients.

    Far as what people think of my personality I’ve had people (other than the above, obviously) express surprise at how laid back I am in person considering my views. Not sure what they really mean though. Am I supposed to walk around screaming or something?

    • At most of the jobs I’ve had, I’ve learned it’s usually smarter (for me) to keep my mouth shut when controversial issues are discussed. Or if I open my mouth, it’s smarter to ask questions to feel out what people think and not to offer my own opinion. However, I don’t always do the “smarter” thing.

  6. It’s been good for my ongoing struggle to avoid being a smug prick to live in areas where the political affiliations of one’s neighbors are hard to predict. When I lived in Manhattan, it was easy to assume everyone was the same kind of left-ish person as me. In fact, I rather enjoyed being the one who was more conservative than people suspected. The area of New England where I live now is more full of liberals than conservatives, but not to the degree that one can safely predict people’s politics just because they’re your neighbors.

  7. I cannot thank you enough for the blog post. Will read on…

Comments are closed.