Makeup company Estée Lauder has fired senior executive John Demsey for an offensive Instagram post on his personal account that used a racial slur. Demsey posted a spoof book cover based on the TV show Sesame Street that used the N-word with some letters replaced with asterisks. The post was mocking Covid-19.
Estée Lauder said Demsey’s termination was the result of his Instagram post, which does not reflect the values of the Estée Lauder Companies. “Our employees, and especially our senior leaders, are accountable to drive our progress and to respect the values of this company for the long term,” Estée Lauder said in its statement.
Demsey, who had been with the brand for 30 years, responded by deleting the offensive post and apologizing, writing that he was terribly sorry and deeply ashamed. He added that he didn’t read the racist meme before posting it.
For far too long, organizations have had different rules for leaders vs. employees. The result? Employees think the culture is unfair, which drives employee disengagement. It’s about time senior leaders are held to higher ethical standards and treated the same as employees vs. as royalty, which they are not.
Jill, What Can I Do? If you see a discrepancy between how leaders and employees are treated or what they are allowed to get away with, speak up. One of the biggest drivers of disengagement is employees feeling that the playing field is uneven, because it often is. Hold everyone to the same standard – your values – and you will build a culture of respect and fairness, which no one can imagine leaving.