Internal Comms 101: Don’t Fire The Exec That Everyone Likes

The ouster of a grocery store execs has people protesting in the streets.

demoulasUp in New England, the workers at the grocery store chain Market Basket are up in arms. The president of the company Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted last month over a family dispute. His wasn’t the only head to roll: two other execs were fired and seven stepped down according to Business Insider.

But it’s Demoulas’ dismissal that has the company’s employees riled up. To the point in fact that some of them were dismissed for organizing protests on his behalf.

And it’s not just the employees; local politicians are asking shoppers to boycott the store until Demoulas is reinstated. And shoppers look to be obliging that request. It’s turned into an issue that has sparked protests in the street and lots of coverage by The Boston Globe.

Business and family many times don’t mix. There are some big issues (including lawsuits) driving the rift in this family business. Generally, for the sake of the business, fights between partners have to be kept under control.

More than that, it’s a bad idea to can a leader that has the loyalty and dedication that Demoulas clearly has. Compromise would’ve been a much less painful option.

According to the Globe, there’s a Save Market Basket Facebook page with 40,000 likes, online petitions demanding that Demoulas be brought back on board and both the Governor of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas have asked that he get his job back. (The grocer started in that state and still has a big presence there.) Literally thousands of people are gathering at stores to raise their voices on the issue. The top execs have stayed notably quiet. The family issues go all the way back to the 1970s.

market basket protestUntil now that is, when Demoulas put out a statement saying the larger issue isn’t about him, but rather the workers who have dedicated their lives to making the chain a success. One worker who was fired worked there for 49 years. Geez.

“A former worker told Business Insider that Demoulas was a key part of the family atmosphere at Market Basket,” the site says. Protesting workers are also nervous about their pay and benefits.

In other words, do not oust an executive who has created cohesion within your company; who has turned workers into advocates for how great your business is; and who could spark a mutiny with his departure. This is an issue that needs to be handled tactfully, with those in charge listening closely to the concerns of the workers and the community and a clear exchange of information between workers and the public.

Most companies strive for this sort of unity with its workers. If there’s a downside to that, I guess here it is.