Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz made the case that the lunatics may be in charge of the asylum that is the coffee retailer’s corporate offices after admitting to pleading “I’ll get on my knees” to get the younger generation to do their jobs.
Schultz was in attendance at The New York Times’s DealBook D.C. policy forum Thursday where he discussed the challenges he is facing at the progressive company while it seeks a new chief executive following Kevin Johnson’s retirement in April. Employees are dissatisfied and, as Schultz sees it, it’s “primarily because Gen Z has a different view of the world.”
Since corporations embraced lockdowns during the pandemic, the CEO explained that his desire to get his staff to return to the office has been for naught. “I have been unsuccessful, despite everything I’ve tried to do, to get our people back to work,” he lamented.
“I’ve pleaded with them. I said I’ll get on my knees,” he told Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin during the interview. “I’ll do push ups. Whatever you want. Come back.”
In spite of the corporation’s opposition to unionization, the labor force appeared to be winning out against their CEO’s wishes by simply ignoring his requests.
“No, they are not coming back at the level I want them to. And, you know, we’re a very collaborative, creative group. I realize that I’m an old-school person and this is a different generation,” he observed.
Schultz went on to say one of the quiet parts out loud when he revealed the eggshells that he is walking on when dealing with snowflakes in the employ of Starbucks. “I’ve been schooled by our people, ‘don’t say too much,’ so we have to establish a new way of working,” he described of his kowtowing to their whims.
“I’ve embraced it,” Schultz added of the woke culture, “I’ve got religion.”
However, Schultz’s figurative bending of the knee to the spirit of the age is less about a problem with the employees and more about a problem with his ability as a leader. Tesla CEO Elon Musk is facing the same issue and has taken a radically different approach that recognizes the traditional role of the employee.
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“If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned,” Musk reportedly said and also noted if they are unhappy with that arrangement, “They should pretend to work somewhere else.”
His decree was not wholly tyrannical though, as he did note there could be exceptions on a case by case basis, “If there are particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible, I will review and approve those exceptions directly.”
Schultz expressed that he has tried to lead by example, offering, “I’m in the office at 7 a.m. and I leave at 7 at night. I’m trying to make an example. But, no, I think people will come back two to three days a week and that’s the way – that’s the way it is. But the thing that I am evaluating is, what’s the level of productivity? And you know, it appears that people are working at home.”
All he has proven is that Gen Z has an entitlement mentality and for every inch that is ceded to them, they will in fact expect a mile. He contended as much talking about free college tuition and “equity in the form of stock options for everyone,” that the company is known for offering.
“We can go on and on, but the truth is those benefits, as good as they are and were, are not good enough for the employee of today, primarily because Gen Z has a different view of the world,” the CEO stated.
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