What’s Keeping Starbucks Up At Night?

By Sally Weldin, Sr. Human Resource Specialist
Published May 15, 2018

Last month, Starbucks Coffee announced that it will close its 8,300 U.S.-owned and operated coffeehouses for employee training due to an incident of alleged racial bias at a Philadelphia location. Specifically, two African-American men were accused of loitering and arrested, yet numerous Caucasian customers said that when they engaged in the same behavior, they were not treated that way. The video of the two African-American being arrested quickly went viral. As a result, Starbucks endured boycotts and public protests resulting in negative attention and press. Starbucks quickly pledged to conduct employee training to save and strengthen their community reputation. 

unconscious bias

Most employers promote a diverse, equal opportunity environment as one of the pillars of workforce culture. Yet, promotion (as Starbucks learned), is not enough. There must be employee training coupled with a consistent message of zero-tolerance for profiling, stereotyping and discrimination. 

The incident in Philadelphia and others coming on its heels makes unconscious bias a mounting concern in the workplace. A quick, instinctive reaction to employees who are unconsciously stereotyped or profiled based on race, gender, or other personal characteristics can lead to mistrust, exclusion, and possible Title VII discrimination claims. 

To prevent unconscious bias, employers and employees need to understand and recognize what it is. One of the triggers for bias reaction is based on first impressions, instinct, and split-second decisions. Employees may need to slow down their reactions, stop, and think before acting.  Join us on June 20 at the Management Association’s headquarters in Downers Grove for our seminar Unconscious Bias: Beyond Awareness. We’ll explore how to move beyond awareness to build steps to ensure unconscious bias isn’t guiding your supervisors’ most important decisions.

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