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CEOs Push Back Against ‘Woke’ Employees, Bullying


Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken | Image by News BTC

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CEOs are pushing back against “woke” politics in the workplace, going as far as firing “activist” employees who criticize their company’s views and actions.

Jesse Powell, CEO of the cryptocurrency technology company Kraken, offered employees who felt “triggered” for any reason a severance package to leave the company.

The offer was accompanied by an updated mission statement, which stated:

“We will never ask that our employees adopt any specific political ideology as a requirement for our workplace. That said, we ask that our employees respect the individual rights, privacy, and freedoms of others.”

It went on to state: “If nobody is ever offended, we either don’t have enough diversity of thought or we don’t have enough transparency in communication. We recognize that hurt feelings are inevitable in a global organization that is optimizing for team outcomes above individual sentiment. The ideal Krakenite is thick-skinned and well intentioned.”

Elon Musk’s space exploration company, SpaceX, fired several employees on June 16 after they shared a letter criticizing Musk’s effort to purchase Twitter and loosen its oversight of posts and members. The letter described the move by Musk as “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment” for SpaceX.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell emailed the remaining employees after the firings, informing them that the criticism against Musk’s Twitter acquisition “made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views. We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism.”

In mid-June, The Athletic, a sports news website owned by The New York Times, ordered its staff to drop political activism from stories and stick to sports.

“We don’t want to stop people from having a voice and expressing themselves,” Paul Fichtenbaum, the publication’s chief content officer, said in the order. “We just need to keep it from tipping over into the political space.”

An employee responded in to Fichtenbaum in The Defector: “What about Black Lives Matter? Is that a social cause? Who will write about athlete protests? What about trans athletes in sports?”

Netflix took action in May in response to employee protests over some popular programs, such as a stand-up special by comedian Dave Chappelle. Netflix told employees that efforts to censor content they find offensive would not be tolerated.

“We support the artistic expression of the creators we choose to work with; we program for a diversity of audiences and tastes; and we let viewers decide what’s appropriate for them, versus having Netflix censor specific artists or voices,” the company stated. “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”

Netflix made the statements after it had lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of this year. It has since projected that it would lose 2 million more in the second quarter.

Entering the political sphere can turn costly for companies. When Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek conceded to several employees’ demands and announced that the company would fight against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, it sparked a backlash.

The company also inadvertently revealed secretive plans to add LGBTQ content to its movies. Both moves led to a wave of parents canceling their subscriptions and theme park visits.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis responded to Disney’s opposition to the bill by dissolving the special purpose district encompassing the company’s theme park in Orlando. Disney stock subsequently fell from $130 per share in March to $96.61 by the end of the trading day on Monday, June 27.

“Suddenly, nobody has any interest in this anymore, and companies are responding accordingly and starting to drop ‘woke,’” said Scott Shepard, director at the National Center for Public Policy Research. “I don’t think this is the end of woke, I don’t even think it’s the beginning of the end, but to borrow from Mr. Churchill, I do think it might be the end of the beginning.”

“It turns out that alienating the majority of your customer base is terrible for business,” Shepard said. “You can sort of get away with that when the market is reaching new highs and interest rates are nothing, so you can borrow and make up for the lack of profits.”

The Dallas Express reached out to the National Employment Lawyers Association, the National Institute for Workers’ Rights, and the National Labor Relations Board for comment but did not receive a response.       

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