CEOs Start to Push Back Against 'Woke' Employee Bullying

Posted 2 days ago


In an indication that corporate progressivism may be reaching its high-water mark, CEOs for the first time are pushing back against activist employees, in some cases going so far as to fire them rather than steer their companies into the mire of “woke” politics.

Last week, Kraken CEO Jesse Powell became the latest executive to say he has had enough. He invited employees who felt “triggered” by controversial ideas to accept a severance package and leave the company.

The cryptocurrency technology company’s new mission statement says that it “will never ask that our employees adopt any specific political ideology as a requirement for our workplace … 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.”

Powell told “Fox & Friends” that of the company’s 3,000 employees, about 30 have chosen to accept the four-month severance pay and leave, citing their need to express political or social beliefs in the workplace. Comments from the remaining 99 percent of Kraken employees regarding the policy to keep politics out of the workplace were “overwhelmingly positive,” he said.

“I think everyone is ready to get back to work and stop being distracted.”

“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.”

SpaceX, Elon Musk’s space exploration company, joined the chorus on June 16. After several employees publicized a letter denouncing Musk’s campaign to acquire Twitter and steer the social media platform away from censorship, SpaceX responded by firing them.

The employees publicly criticized Musk’s efforts as “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment” for SpaceX. After firing those responsible, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell emailed employees that the efforts 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.”

The Athletic, a sports news website owned by The New York Times, told its staff this week to stick to sports and drop the political activism.

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

Some employees disagreed. A staffer quickly responded in protest. “What about Black Lives Matter? Is that a social cause? Who will write about athlete protests? What about trans athletes in sports?”

Political activism can take a toll on companies, both internally and externally. Walt Disney Co. has proven to be a cautionary tale for corporate leaders. In March, CEO Bob Chapek bowed to activist employees and announced that the family entertainment company would fight to support sex education for children in elementary school, while company executives revealed the intention to add LGBT content to kids’ movies and shows.

That action sparked a backlash from conservative employees and led to parents canceling subscriptions and theme park visits.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis responded to Disney’s harsh criticism of a state law banning sex-ed in kindergarten through third grade by revoking the tax-advantaged status of the company’s theme park in Orlando. Meanwhile, shareholders watched with alarm as Disney stock fell from $130 per share in March to about $94 currently, a 28 percent drop that’s well in excess of the 18 percent decline in the S&P 500 over the same period.

Citibank’s pro-abortion and anti-gun advocacy also drew the attention of state lawmakers. Texas passed legislation in June 2021 that barred banks that discriminate against fossil fuel companies or gun makers from underwriting state bonds. And Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain threatened Citibank with similar treatment in March over its policy of paying travel expenses for employees who go out of state... (Read more)