Crisis management and crisis communications are not disciplines that you want to learn on the job. Yet, on the job in the midst of a crisis is exactly where and when you will learn them. Some CEOs will blunder during this time of disease and turmoil. Others will excel, along with their brands.
John Mackey, CEO of Austin-based Whole Foods, blundered on Wednesday when he sent an email to employees suggesting that they donate sick days to other team members who may need them.
“Team Members who have a medical emergency or death in the immediate family can receive donated PTO hours,” Mackey wrote, “not only from Team Members in their own location but also from Team Members across the country.”
There’s No Good Time To Be Greedy
The blowback from this supposed gesture of corporate goodwill has been swift.
The idea that frontline staff at Whole Foods can work it out among themselves is deeply offensive to staff and shoppers alike.
Whole Foods is controlled by one of the world’s richest people.
But Jeff Bezos wants under-paid employees who are healthy to fund sick leave for those who aren’t so that it won’t cost his bottom line. https://t.co/A7Ub38LTyq
— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) March 13, 2020
During tough times, people show their true character. Many will rise to the occasion. Some will not.
Whole Foods just published a blog post in response to our article in which it says “We have relaxed our policy to allow Team Members to call out of work due to illness, without penalty.” https://t.co/WQetLm5Sc8
— Jason Koebler (@jason_koebler) March 13, 2020
Following the blowback, Whole Foods updated its team with this not organic carrot:
We have increased funds available through our Team Member Emergency Fund, which is available to all Team Members faced with an unforeseeable emergency or critical situation. Amazon has committed an additional $1.6M to support the fund.
In Related News, Patagonia Closes Its Retail Stores and Its Online Store
Patagonia, a company with human values and enlightened leadership, responds like so:
We will temporarily close our stores, offices and other operations at the end of business on Friday, March 13, 2020. Employees who can work from home will do so. All Patagonia employees will receive their regular pay during the closure. We apologize that over the next two weeks, there will be delays on orders and customer-service requests. We ask for your understanding and patience. We will reassess and post an update on March 27, 2020.
Patagonia’s online store is closed because fulfilling orders means that people will need to gather in the warehouse, touch things and breathe on things, that will then be touched and breathed upon by package handlers and delivery drivers.
Apple Stores (Outside of China) Are Now Closed
Apple said it will close all of its stores outside of Greater China until March 27 to reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading.
The iPhone maker’s online store will remain open as well as its “Apple Store” app.
Reaching Through the Window at Starbucks
Some Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada may become drive-thru only while others could limit the number of people allowed inside in response to the pandemic, the company said.
Starbucks has already increased the pace of sanitizing stores and put into place a temporary ban on the use of personal cups or in-store mugs and glassware.
Every Retail Facility Is Essential To Someone
On Thursday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf asked all “non-essential retail facilities” in Montgomery County to close down for two weeks, starting on Friday, as officials were “aggressively moving to a mitigation phase” of coronavirus in the county.
On Friday morning, management of King of Prussia Mall, the largest mall on the East Coast, announced that the mall would remain open, with each mall retailer deciding whether or not to close.
There are some 450 department stores, shops and other businesses that make up the King of Prussia Mall. And on Friday afternoon, only about 20 had decided to close.