Should an employer encourage or discourage political/social viewpoint discussions between employees and customers?
Likely for the majority of us employers, the answer to this question would be a resounding no to such a thought about political or social position discussions between employees and customers especially if those were prompted by the employee.
There is a major employer with a very well-known name that is actually encouraging such activity…Starbucks. Starbucks’ baristas are being encouraged to write some social/political comment on each cup as it is being prepared for the customer. This is apparently in the interest, from Starbuck’s viewpoint, of provoking discussion and/or thought on the part of its customers.
This is probably going to prove to be a short-lived and seldom adopted ‘trend’ no matter what the outcome is for Starbucks. Not many of us employers would encourage any action by an employee that would have the potential for disrupting a client relationship. As a matter of fact, we would far more often be seeking to quell anything of this nature if we learned it was happening.
There is also the significant potential for employees to have differing opinions especially on the subject of politics. Most employers do not engage in a ‘litmus test’ of political views as part of the hiring process for good reason. That is not something that is usually felt to be within the purview of an employer except possibly for an employer that is somehow involved in a campaign for a political candidate.
Starbucks has admittedly been a leader in the business it has chosen to be in, and it has a certain culture about it that might handle such comments well. Most of the employers we know are very much tuned in to not becoming involved in things that do not relate to product or service delivery. That can help to keep the workplace a more comfortable and argument-free place with one mission: creating profit for the employer through delivery of great service and great product.
We’ll not soon be mimicking Starbucks…except in the arena of solid customer service. But we will stay tuned into the results of this Starbucks campaign.
Alan Campbell, Account Manager