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Business Before Politics

straight talk blog gerry fernandez

Photo taken at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis

Almost daily, we hear of  public figures getting into trouble for something they said, posted or tweeted that was poorly phrased or the implications of which they simply didn’t fully consider. Donald Trump’s recent comments are an extreme example of what can happen if a leader says something controversial about an issue that involves race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Our business is not political but there are political aspects to our business. Whether you like it or not, employees inadvertently express their political views at their place of work and increasingly, so do customers.

Issues like the Confederate Flag or Immigration Reform are hot topics and people hold strong views on both sides. What may seem like innocent exchanges can easily turn into a shouting match and can lead to resentment, loss of morale, and even violence.

Here are 3 Cultural Intelligence tips to keep in mind as the summer progresses and the political season approaches.
#1. Coach your managers to discourage talk of politics and not to take sides in any debate.  Remind them that everyone has an obligation to stay focused on serving the guests regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political beliefs. Today’s workforce is much more diverse and so too are the political views they hold. Political conversations in the workplace can have adverse effects if we are not sensitive to the diversity of political opinions help by staff and guests.

#2. Be informed about current events and understand the issues ahead of time so that you can anticipate potential conflicts.  Think about the purpose of your email: You want readers to respond in a certain way, so use specific call-to-actions such as visit our website, shop the sale now, or sign up for specials.

#3.  Give your staff the language they need. to defuse a potential conflict with a co-worker, vendor or guest.
Certain words are inflammatory or political in nature. For example, undocumented is preferred vs. illegal; sexual orientation vs. sexual preference; people of color vs. minority; and these are just a few examples. Remind staff not to comment on these issues with guests or with co-workers. Tell them if someone does bring up an inflammatory or controversial topic, to ignore the comment, change the subject, or tell them you don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss this issue at work. If they persist, tell them to report it to the manager on duty and let the manager handle it.

Being Culturally Intelligent about how to communicate with employees and guests is just good business. In today’s multicultural, multi-generational world, managers need to know comments like Donald Trump’s may be offensive to many people. The more we stay focused on serving our diverse guests and leaving politics at home, the better we will be as an industry.

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An Open Letter to MFHA Members, Supporters and Industry Colleagues

Victims of Dylann Storm Roof who is in custody for the church shootings

Victims of Dylann Storm Roof who is in custody for the church shootings

Dear Members, Supporters and Industry Colleagues,

I invite each of you to join me and the MFHA Board of Directors in extending our condolences and prayers to the people of Charleston, South Carolina. We should especially remember the victim’s families, friends, and members of Emanuel AME church. It is moving to see such faith and forgiveness on display in the community during such a difficult time.

The killings at Emanuel AME are the latest, and by far the worst, in a series of high-profile tragedies that have occurred over a period of nearly two years. It has become disturbingly common to hear of Blacks being killed or otherwise mistreated, whether by hate-filled individuals, groups, or even officers of the law.

I look at these events from the viewpoint of a father, husband, grandfather, business leader, and man of faith. As a Black American, and father of three sons, the racial intolerance and violence being visited on people of color is of great concern to me and my family. Debra and I worry about the safety our sons. We speak with them frequently about the potential for conflict and are relieved and thankful when they return home safely. Our family is strong and we are blessed, but we have had our share of difficulties, many of which were irrefutably related to race.

In my position as MFHA President, I have spent nearly two decades working with companies, trade associations, community organizations, and the media to promote our industry as a great place for people of color to build a business of a career. I have spent thousands of hours, and traveled from coast to coast, advocating for diversity and promoting our industry as a place where people of all cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds to thrive.

I believe that in the wake of tragedies like Charleston people need to take action. The great Irish Statesman, Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

As the leader of our industry’s leading multicultural organization I feel compelled to speak out on this issue. Our industry is the largest employer of minorities outside of the federal government, so I believe that other groups and business leaders should speak out as well. We need to do our part in helping to build a nation that is more tolerant of difference, more compassionate, and more culturally intelligent about the way we engage with each other.

Howard Schultz of Starbucks showed leadership when earlier this year he launched “Race Together” in an effort to get people talking about race. While that initiative fell short of its goal, I applaud Starbucks for making an effort to engage its employees and customers in this important conversation. Acts of racial hatred, discrimination and intolerance are affecting our most valuable resource; our employees!

We’ll never know if anything could have prevented what happened at Emanuel AME. I hope that once the funerals and prayer vigils are over that we will continue to have a dialog about race and culture. I believe that culturally intelligent conversations and culturally intelligent leadership will lead to solutions. Solutions that I believe can bring our community together for the good of all America.

God bless the people of Charleston, the family members of the victims and Emanuel AME Church.

Sincerely,

Gerald “Gerry” A. Fernandez
President & Founder
MFHA