Most of us have heard the story about the Philadelphia Starbucks manager who called the police on two black men who were sitting in the coffee shop without ordering anything and then asked to use the restroom. The police arrested the men for trespassing, but it turned out they were waiting on a third person to have a business meeting.
The term that became headline news to describe this situation is called unconscious bias, or implicit bias, and is defined as prejudices we have but are unaware of or mental shortcuts based on social norms and stereotypes.
Instead of going from bad to worse, this situation was handled well by Starbucks leadership. Kevin Johnson, CEO, went to Philadelphia and personally apologized to the two men, calling the incident reprehensible. The Starbucks manager who called the police was fired. And Johnson announced that on May 29 Starbucks will close its 8,000 stores in the United States for an afternoon of unconscious bias training to 175,000 employees, costing the coffee titan roughly $17 million in sales. His hope is this training will help solve the problem and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
While this story is troubling, employers can take away some valuable lessons:
- When faced with a negative PR or morale situation, the leader of a company should own it, communicate it and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. It’s so important that company leaders acknowledge the issues that arise and deal with them head on. No sugar coating, no excuses.
- Be transparent about the culture and values of the organization, along with the expected employee behavior that aligns with those values.
- Offer ongoing awareness training to employees. Don’t assume employees know how to communicate well, handle conflict, and recognize biases. Train them.
At MRA, we have the tools you need to assist and assess your workforce, including unconscious bias training and whitepapers on Implicit Bias and the Neuroscience Behind Implicit Bias. MRA is also pleased to introduce a new partnership with SpectraDIVERSITY to offer the Spectra Diversity and Inclusion Assessment. For more information, contact us at 800.488.4845 or email me at email@example.com.
Source: Lisa Pook, Director, Organizational Development, MRA - The Management Association