What signs could you make out when your CEO threatens you into doing something. Yes, it is real and it is happening now. CEOs from many US companies are teaming up and sending threatening letters to employees forcibly altering their presidential vote. This act of bullying questions some fundamental problem with the way business is conducted in those companies.
The root of the problem came a couple of weeks back when in a conference call Mitt Romney encouraged members of a conservative business group to put pressure on employees to vote for him:
“I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.”
This conversation was put in action by a few CEOs, who employed scare tactics to influence employee voting decisions.
The liberal magazine “In These Times” got its hands on some information that was sent to employees at the paper company Georgia Pacific, one of many companies owned by Koch Industries. A cover letter from Koch Industries CEO Dave Robertson begins:
“While we are typically told before each Presidential election that it is important and historic, I believe the upcoming election will determine what kind of America future generations will inherit.
If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects, and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills”.
Florida timeshare mogul David Siegel sent an email to his company’s 7,000 employees imploring them to vote for Mitt Romney. He threatened their jobs and argued that if Obama raised taxes on the wealthy any time in the next four years, it would be so devastating that’d he’d be forced to start laying people off. Few excerpts from the email.
“What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn’t interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose.”
“If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company.”
and “If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about.”
Another President and CEO Arthur Allen sent an email to his employees demanding that they vote for Mitt Romney, else threatening to downsize the company. It said: “We have been able to keep ASG an independent company while still growing our revenues and customers.
But I can tell you, if the US re-elects President Obama, our chances of staying independent are slim to none,” Allen writes. “If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on November 6th, and we lose our independence as a company, I don’t want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come.”
Allen adds: “I am asking you to give us one more chance to stay independent by voting in a new President and administration on November 6th. Even then, we still might not be able to remain independent, but it will at least give us a chance. If we don’t, that chance goes away.”
It fits a pattern of imperious CEOs attempting to marshal the support of their employees in pursuit of their own political interests. This is an emerging trend that in some ways threatens the very foundation of this country. Altering someone’s freedom to act and express using scare tactic.
These tactics if employed, come with bad PR as well as some questionable leadership. Following are the 5 interpretation of what could be perceived when a CEO comes out threatening employees for his personal reasons.
Company fundamentals are not strong:
Imagine if a company suggests that a political outcome could impact your job. What does that mean. From such statement, only one thing could be interpreted, company fundamentals are not strong. If a company’s profitability is vulnerable to political outcome and not the customers, company fundamental is not strong. So, statements like these do not help much but instead put the company into radar for lack of stability and weak fundamentals.
Employees are not allowed to act free and therefore innovation is limited:
What would you perceive of a business where employees are threatened to express themselves. It means that business is not employee friendly. It is not giving employee freedom to grow and work. Instead they act as a tactical support group to execute CEOs objective. The idea of top down culture is bad for innovation. This is a wrong system to pursue. It is also against Maslow’s theory and could result in increased attrition. I hope it is all worth for CEOs stepping up to threaten employees, else there is nothing close to negative impact that such an act could cost.
Company is not embracing diversity:
Another thought that stood out for CEOs that are using scare tactics is that their company is not embracing diversity. By targeting a particular section of employees and influencing their freedom to vote will results in negative checkmarks for company regarding maintaining diversity. Alignment with particular political system or choosing one has always been an important part of everyone’s inner core and it should not be pressurized through force. It results in dissatisfaction among employee and threatens their loyalty to the business and boss. So, not sure why such a move is embraced as it has nothing but negative repercussion to it.
Indicate great divide between employee and leadership, marks weakness:
Almost every good business shows that great businesses are always cumulative sum of its employees. Every employee working at their best provide a culture, central theme to any business. When CEOs come out and threaten employees, it presents itself as a cultural issue within organization. Would you as a customer do business with a company where there is a cultural disparity to a point that CEO threatens employee for thing as unrelated to business as voting. It indicates broken organization that is vulnerable to fallouts. So, certainly another bad move which should be discouraged.
Not a customer centric business:
Another assumption that could be made by such an act is that businesses are more impacted by political outcome compared to customer satisfaction. This is another area that could bite the businesses in wrong way. Sending such emails will communicate that CEO of a business considers even a political outcome as an important factor for determining profitability. This raises a question that a given company is really customer focused and not hogwash of cooked books.
i.e. If the company works 24×7 for customers or have another intent as well.
So, now we should all take a moment and think, is this all worth it.
Are we encouraging a society where even your boss bullies you for things that should not be his business like your voting choice, your home location etc. This is something that is a stain to democratic system, a threat to free election. I hope FEC intervenes and safeguards fairness in this election.