When you have with 238,000 employees, most of whom interact with the public all day, someone is going to do something stupid. That is a fact of human nature. The question is, how the leadership of a company deals with an incident? In the case of Starbucks, you be the adult and not the five-year-old.
Racists Don’t Think They’re Racist
Racism is a major problem in this country. Racists usually don’t know they are a racist. In their minds, they do what they think is ‘natural’ from their cultural perspective. What is natural is what is correct. This means most racists are in the bigot closet and don’t even know it.
There is no racism test for an employer to give a job applicant. If there were, a lot of people would be unemployable. Closet racists are going to be hired at all major corporations. Sometimes, like at Cracker Barrel, the racism is condoned by the employer; however, most companies avoid hiring overtly racists employees. At least that’s what they claim.
Regardless, when an employee does something that is racist, many executives will attempt to minimize the incident, or attempt to deny the issue was about race. The public relations (PR) people are experts at diluting the obvious by reminding the media that motivations can’t be proven. From a PR perspective, a company, like United Airlines, can do no wrong, even when it does something wrong.
Starbucks Policy of Responsibility
The leadership at Starbucks is probably not perfect, but at least they make every attempt to be aware of what is correct from what is wrong. That is why Kevin Johnson, the CEO of Starbucks wasted no time in responding to one of his employees calling the police on two African Americans for trespassing in a Starbucks when they didn’t purchase something in the store.
In this incident is noteworthy that at least six officers were present to arrest two non-combative African American males. It was overkill that the police were called, and overkill that six police responded. If a white man had robbed the Starbucks it is likely that it wouldn’t have had this response.
The victims of this incident were held for over eight hours after being arrested. They were released after the police admitted they had no crime to with which to charge them.
What Starbucks Didn’t Do
Johnson didn’t offer excuses for his company. He didn’t say the video doesn’t really tell the whole story. The CEO didn’t even hint that it might not have been a racist act.
Instead, Johnson offered apology after apology. Johnson met directly with the men involved. He called the act “reprehensible.” It is unclear what happened to the employee in question, but the employee is no longer at that store.
Most companies today look like children trying to cover up their misbehavior after a public relations incident such as this one. It is good to know that Starbucks is capable of using common sense and decency in responding to this situation.
Sadly, the rest of the employees at Starbucks will be impacted by this one person’s act. We all pay for the bad behavior of others.