Starbucks’ strong response to the incident in Philadelphia sparks positive workplace innovation

Starbucks seeking to eliminate the elephant in their coffee shops with training on May 30. (Andrea Clemett/ Lariat)

Starbucks seeking to eliminate the elephant in their coffee shops with training on May 29. (Andrea Clemett/ Lariat)

Starbucks removes elephant from the coffee shop

The rising temperatures of racial differences from the popular coffee chain that led Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, to make significant strides forward in creating a nonracial work climate. While the manager of a Philadelphia location made an inauspicious decision against two African-Americans, the company’s plan for change promotes a positive shift for other corporations and sets a high bar.

This event opened the vaults of prior experience of racial biases with people coming forward with their own accounts of discrimination. The news coverage and social media posts have helped to facilitate a dialogue across the country. This sharing of ideas and feelings plays a pivotal role in creating a culture shift.

Society teaches persons to believe that those in positions of authority have our best interests at heart. What happens when a police officer, president of the nation or store manager acts in a racially biased fashion without any consequence? It establishes a precedent. A study of learned racism concluded that the environment plays a role of favorable and tendentious perceptions, according to a Boston Globe article conducted by Mahzarin Banaji a Harvard University Psychologist.

When prominent authority figures like President Trump, conveyed slanderous remarks in 2016 that “Mexican are criminals and rapists” and in 2017 he said 15 thousand recent immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS.” These words permit a license for free speech to be used in derogatory ways towards the group of the brunt of the slur. This new normal provokes a higher acceptance of bigotry and those targeted must tolerate the current status quo. When did the seemingly superficial concept of political correctness disintegrate to the point where people now openly exhibit their intolerance of others?

The elephant in the Starbucks branch in Philadelphia provoked an immediate response wherein racial bias training will occur in 8,000 stores in the U.S. on May 29. However, it remains unclear whether racial preferences that began in early childhood can be changed by an afternoon session. Nevertheless, it will provide for the establishment of a policy within the company in order to determine what they deem to be inappropriate actions.

When does the truth prevail? The exposure stems from iPhones capturing these moments in real time by minimizing the hearsay as it did in the Starbucks incident. It rightfully puts those at fault under a microscope, as it influenced the commissioner of police in Philadelphia to reassess their procedures in confronting and resolving non-violent disputes according to article reported by The New York’s Times.

The verification of the videos exposes the truth, unlike in allegations of sexual harassment, that initially left a ‘he said she said’ debate. The #metoo movement began as isolated incidents and gave rise to an influx of victims coming forward. This further compelled work establishments to implement mandatory training protocols and regulations.

Starbucks embarked on a path to alter the culture of the stores, ostracizing racially-biased behavior even if the individual’s core beliefs do not appreciably change. If no action took place, perhaps a work environment where allowances to discriminate would ultimately enable a toxic culture to prevail.

It may take time before other companies follow suit and change their protocols concerning racial biases. However, if similar situations arise such as what occured at Starbucks, those involved will expect repercussions and change.

It all starts with incremental change and Starbucks hopes employee discipline in the implementation of revised policies. However, changing hearts and minds in order to ensure that individuals confront their biases becomes the end goal.