Media Appearances

Should CEOs be focusing on big societal issues?

Must a CEO bring his or her company into every cultural discourse?

There’s typically two sides to this argument.

One says that if business leaders don’t take specific stands on social topics, there won’t be enough gravitas and movement on them.

The other side says that CEOs should spend most of their time focusing on business issues that are more solvable from their position.

Our Chief Scientist of Workplace Culture, Jessica Kriegel, appeared on CNN to discuss just this topic:

In previous discussions about this topic — call it “wokeness” if you want — Kriegel has mentioned the famous Jason Fried post from a few years ago, where he sent this to his employees:

6. No forgetting what we do here. We make project management, team communication, and email software. We are not a social impact company. Our impact is contained to what we do and how we do it. We write business books, blog a ton, speak regularly, we open source software, we give back an inordinate amount to our industry given our size. And we’re damn proud of it. Our work, plus that kind of giving, should occupy our full attention. We don’t have to solve deep social problems, chime in publicly whenever the world requests our opinion on the major issues of the day, or get behind one movement or another with time or treasure. These are all important topics, but they’re not our topics at work — they’re not what we collectively do here. Employees are free to take up whatever cause they want, support whatever movements they’d like, and speak out on whatever horrible injustices are being perpetrated on this group or that (and, unfortunately, there are far too many to choose from). But that’s their business, not ours. We’re in the business of making software, and a few tangential things that touch that edge. We’re responsible for ourselves. That’s more than enough for us.

While CEOs do occupy large positions in society, their focus ultimately needs to start with business issues. And there are any number of business ideas that need to be solved, from burnout and stress to attrition to both men and women fleeing the workforce to what’s going to happen with automation.

CEOs should keep their eye on those balls and not get drawn into every cultural flashpoint. It’s better for their culture long-term.

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