Starbucks, You & Me: Cultural OOPS!

We are all on the journey to greater awareness, including cultural, and “OOPS” are bound to happen along the way. How do you handle oops when they occur? We had some examples a few weeks ago of how to communicate with others when we hear their bias “oops.”

Imagine my initial horror when a newsletter reader (thankfully) brought my cultural oops to my attention last week. I posted apologies on social media, updated the text of my blog and Linkedin pulse and re-shot my video to exclude the oops.

I particularly wanted to communicate with you because the intention of your work is to raise cultural awareness and yet this feels like a prime example of a ‘cultural blindspot’,” the newsletter reader wrote, including an explanation of my oops effects. 

But just like the Starbucks store arrest cannot be undone, I cannot recall the newsletter (or, evidently, the Facebook Live video). Starbucks, despite a history of advocating racial equality, has been in the news about a cultural oops in one of their stores, a manager calling the police after two African-American men were sitting at a table without ordering and then asked to use the restroom. (I believe I may have done something like this without being arrested) What did Starbucks leadership do? They publicly apologized and committed to shutting down all their stores for a bias training.

“Great beginning, and not enough,” I posted on social media and in my letter to COO Rosalind Brewer. Research shows that a one time unconscious bias training can actually have a detrimental effect, as some participants will take the “everyone has it” message and hear that as they do not need to concern themselves with it.  I believe in the effectiveness of training over time, combined with coaching. Effectiveness of training can increase by 55% when coaching is added. (1)

What is a cultural oops? “‘oops’ is a way of recognizing and expressing regret when someone is hurt by what we say or do (and).. we would like to rewind the tape of life. From there, we can get curious ..” (My words: and learn more about our oops and its effect as well as) “ask for help from others about what we could have done differently.” summarizing Martha Lasley (2) And then take action, like Starbuck’s commitment to bias training.

My actions? Besides apologizing and reshooting the video,  I invited the reader who called my “oops” to my attention into conversation. I continue to learn about bias and inequities, including in communities: both international coaching communities plus The Open Table locally and with my bias co-presenter, friend and colleague, Evelyn Hill. Evelyn and I are also accountability partners who lovingly point out each other’s “oops”. This is especially important for me as a solopreneur. I am additionally considering contracting with a culturally sensitive media specialist to vet my messages before they go out! An accountability partner increases the probability of success by up to 95%. (3)

Do you see yourself in this example? While presenting a program on bias, one of the participants shared she was working with a cultural group and decided she would view them “like everyone else.” While this may sound noble, it is actually an example of Milton J. Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, (4) which I pointed out and explained in the virtual program. The first stage of this model is to deny there are any cultural differences, or even to defend your culture as the best. While “We are all really the same under our skin” may sound or feel embracing and noble, it can actually trivialize cultural differences rather than celebrating and leveraging them.

In the chat, another participant called this out as an “oops”.

How are you catching your cultural “oops”, and how are you handling them? What accountability do you have in place?

Leaders and coaches, contact me about programs plus coaching to reduce the frequency and impact of your cultural oops.

Stay tuned till next week!

To our success-we are in this together!

Marilyn O’Hearne, MA, MCC

Culturally Intelligent Executive, Leadership, Team and Mentor Coaching; Supervision
  3. ATD (Association for Talent Development) 2015 Accountability Study



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