Monday, October 22, 2012

Equip Employees to Field Your Fallout

If you—as a retail store owner—broadly announce your stand on a divisive public policy issue, it might be your store personnel who face the fallout. That’s true even if you do your best to make clear you’re speaking as an individual.
     When Whole Foods CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal opposing ObamaCare, Mr. Mackey stressed that, “Whole Foods Market as a company has no official position on the issue.” Still, threats of a boycott against Whole Foods arose, maybe because a WSJ editor titled Mr. Mackey’s piece “The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare.”
     This summer, when Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy publically opposed same-sex marriage, he presented it as his personal moral obligation to do so, not as the policy of Chick-fil-A or the restaurants. Soon afterwards, though, Mr. Cathy announced he would stop giving money to anti-gay marriage groups. The Los Angeles Times quoted the company as saying, “while its sincere intent has been to remain out of this political and social debate, it keeps getting dragged back in.”
     This month, when Nordstrom president Blake Nordstrom declared support for legalizing same-sex marriage, it was as the stand of the company, not as only Mr. Nordstrom’s personal opinion. So it became especially important to warn the employees. The Nordstrom announcement to staff read, in part, “To all of our employees – if you choose to talk about this with each other, please do so respectfully. We want you to be informed about our position so you can also respectfully answer any customer questions that come your way.”
     The memo said the reason behind the stand was valuing of equality. This is a widely embraced value in North America. Research findings from University of Delaware and University of Hartford say that if you can take refuge in principles important to your target audience, any controversy tossed around by negative publicity can lead to you being noticed without being hurt.
     The Nordstrom memo not only warned the employees, but also equipped them to handle the fallout. You owe your employees that same sort of consideration if you take on a controversy.
     You also might want to prepare everyone to handle additional business because of the controversy. That “sincere intent to remain out of this… debate” quote was in a caption for a photo of a line of consumers outside a Chick-fil-A waiting to get in.

Click below for more: 
Redirect Consumer Boycott Anger 
Take Refuge from Controversy in Principles

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