CEOs speak truth to Trump

A roundup of CEO statements in the wake of the presidential election. Speechwriter, what shall your CEO say?

In the society that surrounds and peoples our organization’s, it’s all Trump, all the time. What, if anything, is an executive communication pro to do? First, see how your colleagues are doing and learn. Here’s a quick roundup the style and substance of some CEO statements in the immediate wake of the U.S. election.

Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was one of the first out of the gate, sending a borderline sanguine-sounding email to employees the day after the election:

We are going through a period of profound political and economic change around the world, and American citizens showed that deep desire for change in voting to elect Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. We have heard through democratic processes in both Europe and the United States the frustration that so many people have with the lack of economic opportunity and the challenges they face. We need to listen to those voices.

We have just been through one of the most contentious elections in memory, which can make it even harder to put our differences aside. But that makes it more important than ever to bind the wounds of our nation and to bring together Americans from all walks of life. Recognizing that our diversity is a core strength of our nation, we must all come together as fellow patriots to solve our most serious challenges. …

I’m optimistic about America’s future and the role our company will continue to play as we help the nation address our challenges and move forward together. Jamie

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, Starbucks chief Howard Schultz and Apple CEO Tim Cook each quickly put out bland urges for employees to “answer the challenges of the day with kindness and compassion,” as Schultz put it.

• PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi used a conference platform in New York on Thursday to express dismay and offer reassurance.

“I had to answer a lot of questions, from my daughters, from my employees, they were all in mourning,” said Nooyi at the DealBook Conference Thursday. “Our employees are all crying, and the question that they are asking, especially those that are not white: ‘Are we safe?’ Women are asking, ‘Are we safe?’ LGBT people are asking, ‘Are we safe?’ I never thought I’d have had to answer those questions.”

Nooyi, who was a public Clinton supporter, added that “the first thing that we all have to do is to assure everyone living in the United States that you are safe. Nothing has changed as a result of this election. The process of democracy has happened. We just have to let life go on.”

GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney got himself into hot water by telling employees the after last weeks’ election, “I absolutely reject the nationalist, anti-immigrant and hateful politics of Donald Trump and will work to shield our community from this movement as best as I can,” and concluding, “If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here. We do not tolerate hateful attitudes on our team.”

In response to the predictable backlash, Maloney wrote another email: “I want to clarify that I did not ask for anyone to resign if they voted for Trump. I would never make such a demand. To the contrary, the message of the email is that we do not tolerate discriminatory activity or hateful commentary in the workplace, and that we will stand up for our employees.”

Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein left a voice mail for employees last Thursday, stating his lack of certainty about whether Trump’s election would be “good or bad in the long run,” but adding stating that “the president-elect’s commitment to infrastructure spending, government reform and tax reform—among other things—will be good for growth and, therefore, will be good for our clients and for our firm.”

Blankfein offered Goldman Sachs employees some advice: “Amidst the changes we expect to unfold, you should stay close to our clients. Your ideas, insights and advice will prove valuable to them as circumstances evolve in the weeks and months ahead.”

Perhaps most meaningfully, Marriott International’s CEO Arne Sorenson wrote an open letter to President-Elect Trump, apparently seeking to help him formulate a coherent philosophy.

An excerpt from Sorenson’s letter:

To many of us it is not clear what political philosophy guides you—at least with respect to traditional Republican or Democratic labels—other than the useful goal of making America better. Having listened to you on the campaign trail, I wonder whether a more definitive philosophy might be that the federal government’s role in our daily lives should be limited. Let’s not have the government act unless it is uniquely capable of taking positive action to address an issue.

While many conservatives would instantly agree with a philosophy like this, it should extend to areas that are a bit more controversial. A case in point: The government has no business in our bedrooms—or our bathrooms. Everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or identity, has a right to live without interference in their private lives. Similarly, everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or identity, gender, race, religion or ethnicity should have an equal opportunity to get a job, start a business or be served by a business. Use your leadership to minimize divisiveness around these areas by letting people live their lives and by ensuring that they are treated equally in the public square.

Speechwriter, what did your CEO say? What will he or she say? And why? Let’s workshop this, as we’ll have to workshop so much else over the next weeks and months—together. —DM

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