Bias and the Barista: Discussion Questions for Workplace Learning on Implicit Bias
Today, Starbucks will close its 8000 stores in the United States to train its employees on implicit bias and how to reduce the impact of bias in their jobs. This is the response to a recent incident which occurred at a Starbucks location in Philadelphia. There, a barista asked two young black men, Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson, to leave the store after they asked to use the bathroom and sat at a table without purchasing anything. The men refused to leave, explaining that they were waiting for a business meeting. The barista called the police who came and immediately arrested Robinson and Nelson.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross stated on Facebook Live that the officers “did absolutely nothing wrong.” In fact, “they did a service that they were called to do."
Two days later the company apologized on Twitter and released a statement that called the situation a “reprehensible outcome.” The CEO added: “You can and should expect more from us. We will learn from this and be better.” Robinson and Nelson settled any claims against the city (and the police department) for $1 each, and the city has agreed to fund a $200,000 grant to help Philadelphia high school students develop entrepreneurial skills.
1.Take a couple of minutes to think about the situation from the perspective of the following actors.
Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson
The police officers
The CEO of Starbucks
2. Do you think bias played a role in any of the decisions of the people involved? Why or why not?
3. What would you have done differently as each actor? What would you have done the same?
4. In your own work can you think of a decision that in retrospect you wish you had done differently? Did bias play a role?
5. Is there anything about the way Starbucks handled the fallout of the arrests that you could apply to your own role at your work or personal life?