Monday, June 04, 2018

Public Obeisance to Corporate Ideology

straightlinelogic |  Offices and 8,000 stores were closed for an afternoon so that employees could discuss how to make Starbucks a more welcoming place. Judging by its success, Starbucks has already made millions of customers of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual persuasions feel welcome. You have to wonder what the employees responsible for doing so, probably 99 percent of Starbucks’ workforce, feel about this pointless waste of time, which could have been, in a company-wide email, condensed down to: Treat everyone who walks into Starbucks like you’d like to be treated.

Why did Schultz make a mountain out of this molehill? Nobody has questioned his or his company’s commitment to treating everyone walking into a Starbucks equally. This was simply an instance when employees may have failed to live up to the commitment. Schultz is a member in good standing of the establishment, and professes to believe all the things members are supposed to believe in. Why couldn’t he have handled the matter in the same way Robert Iger, CEO and Chairman of the Walt Disney Company, and another member in good standing, handled the Roseanne Barr matter?

He could have. That he didn’t speaks to an insidious issue and its even more insidious corollary. There is less and less in the realm of private behavior, action, and thoughts that remains private, that is not subject to public scrutiny and demands, demands which are implicitly or explicitly backed by recourse to the government. For the government itself, on the other hand, more and more of what it does is shielded from publicity and disclosure.

For CEOs of large companies, virtually everything they and their companies do is fair game for public comment, media attention, lawsuits, and regulatory, legislative, and judicial redress. Schultz probably thought his over-the-top public atonement would preempt the kind of media—including social media—and government crucification that’s meted out to the defiant and the insufficiently contrite.