Amazon, Microsoft and Expedia have all expressed support for a lawsuit being filed by Washington's attorney general claiming the order is unconstitutional.
The concept of workplace culture — uniting employees behind a set of shared goals and values — has never been more important.
Companies hire on the basis of cultural fit. They recruit using culture as a lure that can hold greater sway than perks, benefits and even salary.
But commitment to culture can require leaders to take a stand, particularly when significant outside events contradict the values a company claims to hold dear.
We’re in that moment right now.
In the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, many companies have spoken out against the new commander-in-chief’s for-now-on-hold executive order temporarily barring entry for refugees and people from Syria and six other predominantly Muslim countries.
Microsoft released a statement describing the executive order as “misguided and a fundamental step backward.”
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sent a memo to employees saying, “We are a nation of immigrants whose diverse backgrounds, ideas and points of view have helped us build and invent as a nation for over 240 years.”
Amazon, Microsoft and Expedia all expressed support for a lawsuit being filed by the attorney general of Washington state claiming the order is unconstitutional.
Google executives created a $2 million crisis fund with the goal of raising $2 million more from employee donations, all of which will go to immigrant rights organizations.
Ford Motor Co. released a statement saying, “We do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company.”
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein told employees via a voicemail message that Trump’s executive order “is not a policy we support.”
Blankfein later quoted from the company’s business principles: “For us to be successful, our men and women must reflect the diversity of the communities and cultures in which we operate. That means we must attract, retain and motivate people from many backgrounds and perspectives. Being diverse is not optional; it is what we must be.”
I applaud these companies and many others that didn’t hesitate to stand up and make clear that the values they’ve espoused for their workers are values they’ll stand up and fight for, even if it means opposing the president.
Regardless of your political beliefs, the issues presently being debated — immigration, civil rights, health care, the environment — are not ones that companies can ignore. They’re too fundamental to everyone, and if a company has defined its culture as one that supports diversity and inclusion, it’s unlikely to stay silent on policies that exclude.
Corporate cultures exist for moral and financial reasons. The two are intertwined — moral clarity gives employees reason to be engaged in and feel good about their work, which in turn makes them more productive and devoted.
Given the choice between staying quiet about a political decision that drives tens of thousands of Americans out to protest in airports coast to coast and assuring workers your company’s values won’t bend, the smart financial move is to take a stand. (I’d argue that’s the moral move as well, but business sense will likely be the primary driver.)
Gregory Unruh, the Arison professor of values leadership at George Mason University, wrote a piece for The Huffington Post arguing that companies must defend the values they’ve forged: “There is an opportunity for global brands to commit to, and contribute to, the forging (of) a global economy founded on global values that ensure shared prosperity and justice. Populism is an historic throwback and commercial dead-end. Take a risk and take a stand for an equitable, prosperous global future.”
Ron Fournier, editor and publisher of Crain’s Detroit Business, pleaded with local business leaders to push back against Trump’s executive order: “How can this be good for your business, your city, your country? You’re an important person with power to leverage. Call your congresspeople. Deploy your lobbyists. Write an op-ed. Unite with like-minded civic leaders, and force Trump to fix this.”
I expect we’ll see more of this under Trump’s administration.
And on the major issues I mentioned earlier, I don’t think companies can get away with staying silent. Nor should they.
Employees have every right to press their leaders on issues that get to the heart of who we are as a nation and to make sure those leaders are staking out positions consistent with the cultures they’ve created.
We’ve talked about the importance of workplace culture for years and counted on those cultures to carry workforces through tumultuous times.
Now there’s some external tumult, with more likely to come.
And company’s may have little choice but to stand up or shut up.
Rex Huppke writes for the Chicago Tribune. Send him questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.