Most US CEOs chose to send a safe, if generic, message to employees in the hours and days following Donald Trump’s election to the presidency on Nov. 8.
The theme from corporate leaders like Apple’s Tim Cook and Starbucks founder Howard Schultz was generally “let’s move on together.” Many reassured employees of their dedication to diversity and gender equality.
Matt Maloney, CEO and cofounder of Grubhub, was bolder than that, to the dismay of some.
In an email sent on Wednesday, Maloney told employees at the food-delivery platform that he was struggling to reconcile his worldview “with the overwhelming message that was delivered.” He emphasized that his company would not tolerate hateful attitudes of the type displayed by Trump during his campaign.
“While demeaning, insulting and ridiculing minorities, immigrants and the physically/mentally disabled worked for Mr. Trump, I want to be clear that this behavior–and these views, have no place at Grubhub,” he wrote. “Had [Trump] worked here, many of his comments would have resulted in his immediate termination.”
Mahoney also told his staff of more than 1,000 that the Chicago-based company, which merged with rival Seamless in 2014 to become the leader in its category, would fight to protect everyone in its community. Innovation comes from bringing together perspectives from all “genders, races, ethnicities and sexual, cultural or ideological preferences,” he wrote.
Including a nod to ideology, however, didn’t protect Maloney from the backlash triggered by this line near the end of his email:
“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.”
To some, including the staffer who leaked the memo to Fox News, it appeared that Trump supporters were being invited to quit. Mahoney faced an immediate backlash from shareholders and some would be GrubHub customers. In Friday’s trading, the share price was down 5%. Complaints and calls for boycott were aired on Twitter.
But Mahoney also found some backing:
Mahoney has since responded that his scorn was directed at hateful views and behaviors, not at Trump supporters. In a statement posted to the Grubhub website , he wrote (emphasis his):
“Some of the statements in my email…have been misconstrued. 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.”
Meanwhile, Trump-supporting consumer activists have discovered a brand to celebrate in New Balance, whose VP of public affairs responded positively to the new president-elect, saying the company believed Trump’s stand against to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement will protect its business.
Of course, that was a disappointment for runners devastated by Trump’s win, and many formerly beloved New Balance sneakers became the stars of some political videos.
GrubHub’s Mahoney told Fox News that he did not receive any resignation letters in response to his email, and about 20% of his employees wrote back to thank him for sending it.