OkCupid vs. Mozilla: The Power of Empowered Employees

photo credit - The AdvocateAre you looking for love in all the wrong places?  Well, if you’re LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender), have an OkCupid account and are using Firefox to access– you may be looking for love using the wrong browser!

The dating site OkCupid (OKC) made a statement this week letting users know what may have been a little known fact about Mozilla’s (aka Firefox) new CEO – he doesn’t support marriage equality.

Brendan Eich, Mozilla’s new CEO, donated $1,000 to the campaign to pass California’s Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage. OKC, as a company collective, is taking a stance on the matter – not only by blocking direct access to their site for anyone using the Firefox browser – but they also posted a statement of their discontent letting all users who access the site via Firefox know their reasoning behind taking such a stance.

Here is a copy of the statement: 

“Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience.

Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.

Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.”

Background on Mr. Eich and Mozilla
In 2008, Mr. Eich supported the passage of California’s Prop 8, a statewide initiative to ban gay marriage, with a $1000 donation. Granted, his contribution is now six years in the past, and people can change. But Mr. Eich’s boilerplate statements in the time since make it seem like he has the same views now as he did then. Mozilla recently promoted him to CEO, hence the issue only now coming to our attention. His donation was known to Mozilla at the time of his promotion, and, furthermore, CEOs are rewarded based on their company’s performance. The CEO is the visionary for a company and its products. We are sad to think that any OkCupid page loads would even indirectly contribute towards the success of an individual who supported Prop 8—and who for all we know would support it again. We wish Mozilla’s institutional commitment to freedom and openness were better reflected by their choice of leadership.

Continue to OkCupid

This bold statement sends a message – to employees and to the sites’ users – that OKC supports them all regardless of their sexual orientation.  This stance on valuing diversity creates increased customer engagement and employee commitment – allowing for employees and users to come together and create an experience that is supportive of all.

Those that don’t care or disagree can always choose to not use the site.

Regardless of your personal view on same sex marriage – supporting diversity is important not only for good corporate citizenship but for high performance. OKC was purchased in 2011 for $50 million cash, by IAC, who as a company appears to take a stance in support of many diversity related issues, and that stance hasn’t hurt their profitability.

This speaks positively to the leadership of OKC, and parent company IAC; creating a culture where all employees feel they can bring their full selves to work – where they feel empowered and supported by leadership in joining together to form an employee coalition and take a collective  stance on issues they find important. This type of culture where employees feel valued and appreciated contributes to maximizing People –> Performance –> Profit™.

So how can you create a culture that values diversity and increases engagement and performance?

  • Value: Organizations that truly value diversity and inclusion don’t just give lip service; they take actions to show employees, stakeholders and customers that they really do see the importance – such as OKC did in this instance. Making diversity really matter requires creating and espousing the traits of an organization that embraces diversity, so employees, vendors, and stakeholders can feel safe and comfortable and “bring their full selves” to work –an organization that is respectful, appreciative, trusting, understanding and engaging.
  • Policies: Creating an organization that embraces diversity requires leaders and employees to create diversity policies that are incorporated into every aspect of the organization’s functions — and connect these policies and goals directly to corporate strategy and performance management. Diversity needs to be defined within the scope of the businesses strategy and mission, and in order to succeed should be fully aligned with the organization’s objectives. Policies and initiatives shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach and should meet the diverse and changing needs of employees and customers.
  • Engagement: To successfully create a culture within an organization that embraces diversity — always focus on the people. Your organization can’t exist without people. People make the difference in every business. Once you have diversity strategies and initiatives in place, you need accountable and committed leadership to engage employees in your diversity practices – and get them to engage with one another.
  • Commitment: Leadership commitment is a necessity for creating an organization that embraces diversity. The degree to your diversity initiatives will be successful relies on the involvement and commitment of leadership. Organizations which have leaders who are actively involved in implementing and supporting diversity initiatives create cultures that embrace diversity by inspiring their employees. These leaders view diversity as both a top priority and a personal responsibility.
  • Trust: Trust is a fundamental behavior for any successful relationship, both personal and professional. Trust must be earned. A diverse workforce also brings diverse views on trust. Your workforce must trust each other to most effectively lead and work together. Trust increases engagement and collaboration, expand cross collaboration with diverse groups of employees inside and outside of the organization, and utilize best practices. Leaders can help with trust by providing opportunities for diverse employees to engage with and learn from one another.

Now, before some of you go on a rant…

Sure, one could say it’s not professionally acceptable to discriminate against someone for their private political views and CEO’s are entitled to their opinion – so are employees. We often hear of CEO’s using the leadership pulpit – or bully pulpit – to push personal agendas and viewpoints.  Chick-fil-A’s CEO has done so regarding this issue (though seems to have reversed his stance somewhat when public outcry did in fact apparently impact performance). Hobby Lobby is also in the news lately regarding leadership asserting personal views relating to birth control.

Though, I don’t recall a recent story where employees formed a unified coalition to take a public stance. Employees create a culture not just the CEO.

A CEO can empower employees and create a culture of high performance…or not. Now sure, if you’re a CEO it’s your business, and you can run it however you’d like. As a CEO you can also do whatever you’d like on your own time with your own money – however sometimes exhorting your personal views or making certain personal decisions can have negative impacts; negative impacts to customer engagement, customer loyalty, employee engagement, and impact performance and profitability. Mozilla has had several board members resign over the matter and the bad PR alone can’t be good.

Yes, it’s a tight rope and a balancing act – though a leader can’t often go wrong valuing diversity and empowering employees!

* 4-3-14: Mozilla CEO did in fact resign.

* 3-31-14: Though I have not seen a statement from the CEO one was issued by the Charwomen of the Mozilla Foundation on her blog: https://blog.lizardwrangler.com/2014/03/29/on-mozillas-support-for-marriage-equality/

About: Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions - an Organizational Improvement & Strategy firm.  He helps clients in facilitating sustainable growth by connecting and maximizing  people –> performance –> profit™, creating organizations that are more responsive, productive and profitable.

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