The United Tribes of America
Even though Donald Trump has left office, the tension between races and genders in the U.S. seems to be getting more and more intense and hostile. Although President Biden pledged to unite the country, his executive orders and policy proposals, under the theme of social justice, are dividing Americans by race and gender more than ever. New racial and gender “tribes” are being formed in society and within corporations, each with their own set of grievances and demands.
For years, this campaign for more social justice was limited to politics and the media. Now this effort to divide Americans by race and gender has shifted to corporations and day-to-day management.
Recently the state of Georgia enacted a new set of election laws to instill integrity to the voting process. Many Americans feel that because of COVID, states relaxed voting laws and cheating occurred. A recent Rasmussen poll shows 51% of all voters, including Democrats, believe it was likely that cheating occurred during the 2020 election.
Individual states can set election rules for national elections, and due to COVID, some key states relaxed their laws to allow for more voting by mail or using unsupervised ballot boxes. Critics claim that this allowed fraud into the process because legitimate voters could not be verified.
Large corporations in Georgia, under pressure from Black advocacy groups like Black Lives Matter (BLM, publicly criticized these new laws because they feel the changes ‘suppress’ or discourage Black voters from voting. At least 40 other states are considering laws to instill integrity into the election process but major companies, particularly their CEO’s, are publicly stating they will oppose such laws. That suggests they may consider moving operations out of states that pass integrity laws or contribute money to politicians who oppose these laws.
This has created more division within corporate America. Conservative employees in these companies, which include Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Google and Amazon, are upset that companies are supporting liberal causes rather than remain publicly neutral. Conservative customers are also upset and engaging in product boycotts to show their opposition.
Black Americans are just one new political ‘tribe’ in America. Joining them are the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) and feminists who feel they have been discriminated against in terms of pay and working conditions for decades. The most well-known case is the U.S. Women’s Soccer Olympic team. They have sued the US Olympic Committee because they allege they are paid less than the men’s team due to discrimination. They argue that they have the same job as men (playing soccer), sothey should be paid the same as men. What they neglect to mention is they had the choice of higher base pay or higher bonuses and they chose higher bonuses. While their base pay is less than the men’s team, their total compensation is higher. But they still want their base pay equal to the men’s team.
Labor relations is not spared from these tribal politics. A recent union campaign to organize Amazon workers in Alabama appealed to the mostly Black workforce by stating Amazon’s pay and policies were discriminatory. That message failed when the Amazon workers voted overwhelmingly to stay union-free. Amazon workers didn’t trust the union to provide higher pay and benefits or better job security.
The union movement learned a valuable lesson ? if they want to organize more workers in the U.S., they can’t succeed by targeting individual factories or operation centers. They can be more effective by directing their efforts towards top management, claiming social justice, or they can use the National Labor Relations Board to intervene and impose mandatory union representation because of unfair labor practices by management (eg. Discrimination against minorities and women).
The role of a manager has never been more difficult. Employee tribes can use social media and social justice as powerful weapons to achieve their objectives. Managers must carefully avoid even innocent statements in the workforce for fear that someone in one of the new tribes will claim discrimination. Managers cannot post even the most innocent comments on social media like Twitter or Facebook for fear of offending some group, leading to their termination.
Mostly younger staff at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are pushing management to adopt more liberal policies and news coverage and they have succeeded. A popular editor was recently fired because of an innocent remark he made to college students. An accounting manager of Wayfair, a furniture company, organized an employee campaign to force management to allow an employee committee to determine which customers they will accept. They do not want the company to do business with ‘conservative’ customers.
Sadly politicians have learned they can get more votes if they support individual tribal issues and ignore what is good for the whole country. Business leaders have learned the same lesson.