Now that the virility has settled in the Starbucks-Kicked-Out-Cops debacle, this may be a good time to review what really went wrong in this fiasco.

Again, Starbucks corporate office rightfully apologized for an unfortunate, poorly handled, incident at one of their stores. Given the company’s history of addressing similar matters, they took further action to ensure no further such occurrences. There appears to be no transparency, however, with respect to what that action entailed. But that is a matter for another blog post.


Let’s hit the rewind button here. Take the story way back to before the complaining customer or the police ever entered the store. Go way back to whatever incident may have planted the seed of fear that shaded the perceptions of the complaining customer. That’s where the problem began.

Somewhere, in the distant past, something happened to either cause that customer to fear guns, authority, or the police. From that point forward, everything or anything that triggered that trauma became the enemy du jour. In this case, six policemen who were minding their own business.

What I’m saying here is that the customer’s “feeling uncomfortable” with the presence of the police should never have become Starbuck’s fight. In fact, if that complainant (customer) was acting out of past trauma, what resulted was nothing more than unsuspecting others being held accountable for that individual’s past.


The customer’s here-and-now perspective may have been colored by a past event. They expressed the resulting misconception to store staff, who decided the customer was right. There was no objective consideration of how this action would violate the rights of others’ peaceful enjoyment of a quiet cup of their favorite beverage.


Acknowledging the power of hindsight, the better part of valor would have been to invite the customer to sit where the police were out of his or her sight line or to invite the customer to leave. PERIOD.  This perspective was acknowledged in the company’s public apology:

“When those officers entered the store and a customer raised a concern over their presence, they should have been welcomed and treated with dignity and the utmost respect by our partners (employees).


Where was the judgment on the part of Starbucks’ staff? It was bad enough when, in April of 2018, people were arrested on site for nothing more than being African American. Again, a fear-driven kneejerk response to some internal discord, this time on the part of the staff.

As a behaviorist, I acknowledge that it takes time to walk an individual through years of trauma. In daily operations, nobody is generally a psychotherapist trained in doing so. What can be done is to give individuals the tools to recognize how their past lives are driving the perceptions that lead to the perspectives that cause their reactions to otherwise innocuous life events. This is the core of emotional intelligence.


Research detailed in the Human Resource Management Review determined that traditional lecture-based emotional intelligence training is insufficient to effect substantive change in organizational teams. Experiential emotional intelligence training is more effective than traditional lecture-based training.

The study advised that coaching, relevant practice, and feedback are the ways to effectively influence emotional intelligence in your teams. Lectures are not enough. On an ongoing basis, mindsets and perceptions must be challenged by truthful-trusted-others. New perspectives must be developed over time and their application in the personal and professional lives of the team are core competencies required in the transformation process.


The Whose Apple Dynamic® GPS 360™ Method provides ongoing team support through real-time feedback, one-on-one accountability, coaching and mentoring.

Schedule your free consultation with Dr. Linda now.

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