In recent years, workplaces have witnessed a surge in social activism, as companies seek to address societal issues through policies such as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). While these initiatives may be well-intentioned, they can inadvertently create division and distract employees from their primary responsibilities. In this article, I advocate for the adoption of a “No Cause” policy, which promotes unity, and productivity, and focuses on the core values that drive business success.
From 1998-2000 I worked for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. A job I still look back on fondly. “Corporate Social Responsibility” was a hot topic and Ben & Jerry’s was the poster child. My job was essentially the execution of their social mission. Once when I was visiting their head office in Vermont, I ended up having a very honest discussion with one of their head marketers. The reality was that their social mission was weighing them down. By positioning themselves essentially as “ethical”, they invited all kinds of scrutiny over every aspect of their operations, which resulted in a bureaucracy through which all decisions had to be filtered and delayed.
Ever since, when it comes to “Social Missions”, my advice to business owners and senior managers has always been this: If you want to “Do-Good”, fantastic! But just do it, and don’t talk about it. Let your actions speak for themselves. If you brag about it or make it a part of your brand, you not only undermine its sincerity but also set yourself up for a much larger effort and investment than you might have bargained for.
- Respecting Diverse Perspectives: One of the key advantages of a “no cause” policy is its ability to foster an inclusive environment that respects the diversity of perspectives among employees. By refraining from promoting specific social causes, companies can create a neutral ground where individuals from various backgrounds and beliefs can feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of retribution or bias.
- Preventing Divisiveness and Conflict: When companies align themselves with specific social causes, they inadvertently invite divisive debates and potentially foster an “us versus them” mentality within the workplace. This can lead to tensions among employees and distract them from their primary roles. A “no cause” policy encourages unity and collaboration by emphasizing shared goals and values that unite the workforce rather than dividing it.
- Focus on Core Competencies: Companies that adopt a “no cause” policy recognize that their primary mission is to provide value to customers and stakeholders through their core competencies. By diverting attention away from social activism, employees can channel their energy and expertise toward their respective roles and responsibilities. This approach leads to increased productivity, efficiency, and ultimately, better business outcomes.
- Avoiding Perceived Bias and Controversy: Implementing DEI policies can inadvertently create perceptions of bias or favouritism towards certain causes or groups. Employees may question whether promotions or opportunities are based on merit or adherence to particular ideologies. In contrast, a “no cause” policy eliminates this potential bias, ensuring that employees are evaluated solely based on their performance and contributions to the organization.
- Encouraging Voluntary Philanthropy: While a “no cause” policy refrains from company-wide social activism, it does not discourage individual philanthropy. It encourages employees to pursue their passions and support causes they believe in outside of work. By empowering individuals to make their own choices regarding social engagement, companies can build a culture of personal responsibility and amplify the positive impact of their workforce.
Conclusion: Adopting a “no cause” policy can lead to a more harmonious and productive work environment by prioritizing unity, respect, and core competencies. By shifting the focus away from divisive social activism and embracing a neutral stance, companies can create an inclusive workplace where diverse perspectives are valued and employees can excel in their roles.
* This article is written in loving memory of John Szold, the man who hired me to work for Ben & Jerry’s. He was one of my first and best business mentors. John passed away on On Thursday, July 16, 2020. He would have ripped this article to shreds, and I’d have loved him for it.