Employee activism

Some Wayfair employees took to the streets yesterday after learning that their company had authorized the sale of beds to a federal contractor operating detention centers for children at the US border. They wanted no part of it.

Employee activism is on the rise, in part because more employers are promoting a speak-up culture. It’s often best for companies to learn about problems before they reach the customer, or the press, or the regulators. But while companies want their employees to raise quality concerns with their supervisor before a product ships out, they don’t necessarily want them to take to the streets with a bullhorn.

The younger generation of workers is increasingly choosing to work at companies like Mayfair because they don’t want to support organizations that make cigarettes or weapons or products that hurt animals or the environment. This is positive because companies get workers that believe in their purpose, which improves performance.

Until there’s a disconnect.

A speak-up culture is good but companies need to listen up as well. When detention centers or opioids or racism hit the news cycle, companies need to turn to their employees and ask “What should we do about this, if anything?”

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