Could Starbucks Avoided Shutting Down for Bias Training?

Starbucks we'll see you tomorrow diversity inclusion

Will I see Starbucks tomorrow or the next day?  I am not a fortune teller, but one thing I will predict:  I do not plan on stepping foot into a Starbucks for any reason – bathroom, meeting someone, ordering coffee, working or whatever else people use Starbucks. The idea:  they are not in alignment with my cultural values and my core values.

Yesterday was the big training day where Starbucks across the United States closed down for racial sensitivity training, unconscious bias training, or whatever you want to call it.  I call it – absolutely and ridiculously crazy.  Starbucks prides itself on diversity and inclusion, so how did this happen?

While I do not know THE answer, I do know that the situation was preventable.  Here are a few of my thoughts.

1.    They may not be interviewing to ensure all candidates understand their values and core beliefs.  I say “may” because I have not seen or been through an interview process with Starbucks.  When looking at Starbucks’ core values, the one that stands out is “Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.”

My question to the CHRO and SVP of Talent Acquisition is: Were you having district managers and store managers asking questions related to this core value? If the answer is no, know this:  This is on both of you as well as the entire Human Resources staff across the country. As Human Resources professionals, it is up to us to ensure we hire talent at all levels that align with the company’s culture and values.

I saw on the National News that store employees went through appropriate training  – as a store discussing the scenarios that occurred over the last two months, understanding why it was wrong, openly talking about biases and have everyone involved in creating a store culture that all store employees can live/breathe by.  It will be interesting to see how all levels of employees will use the modules going forward.

Common Sense.jpeg

Common Sense isn’t always so common anymore.

2.    Why did policy overrule common sense?  While I understand why HR and Stores have specific rules, they should be used as a guideline not the be all end all. Unfortunately, I have seen quite a few policies in my time.  My favorite policy of all time was with a major airline.  It read: “Do not operate a plane unless Flight Operations have formally trained you.” Would I love to fly a jet plane?  Yes!  Would I do it without the proper knowledge and training?  No.  This policy made me laugh each time I read it because common sense tells me I shouldn’t fly a plane unless I know how.  As it relates to the Starbucks situation, shouldn’t common sense come in to play?  Two people sit down at Starbucks waiting for someone to arrive.  BFD.  How many times have you seen people sit down without ordering anything waiting on a friend, an interviewer, or a colleague?  I have witnessed many a time in Starbucks all over the U.S. How many times have you walked into Starbucks to use the restroom without buying something?  Only you know that answer, but I would imagine most of you have done this.  I have. Common sense says do not impose rules as Starbucks did that can facilitate situations as Starbucks experienced.

Policies are like computers. They make our lives more comfortable, but neither have common sense “programmed” when it comes to a situation.  My thought is we need to use more common sense in the workplace when it comes to decision making.

3.    Why are we still talking about racial bias and related training in the workforce today – not a rhetorical question? I genuinely do not understand the action the store manager took. I do not know what motivated Roseanne Barr to make discriminatory remarks that led to ABC canceling her show.  I do not understand how in today’s world with information at our fingertips still say, write/tweet with discriminatory remarks or take the wrong action based on a person’s skin color.

We can jump to conclusions about what led to the required training at Starbucks, but we would be inserting our own unconscious bias, and that is not right.

Take a moment to let me know what you think about whether Starbucks did the right thing or what they could have done to prevent “the shutdown” yesterday.


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