Pagan business owner sacrifices female employees to appease customer


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What happens when you pursue being customer-centric, but don’t balance that goal with also being employee-centric? This is your chance to coach the business owner back to the right path. First the story…

Ariel Kaminer, The Ethicist, in the Sunday New York Times, shares “A faith-based decision“. The situation presented was this…

I work at a wholesale distributor. One of our good customers from India asked if the holy man from his temple could stop by to bless our place of business. We accepted his offer. He then added this caveat: The holy man would prefer that no woman enter that area of the building during the ceremony. Some women on our staff were insulted by our willingness to abide by this restriction. The holy man ended up canceling, but we are still left with some bitterness. Should I have been more considerate?

Ariel’s response:

By asking those women to leave the premises and excluding them from the blessings, you in effect told them that you place a greater value on the comfort of some random visitor or on the business of a loyal customer — or perhaps on some religious beliefs that aren’t even your own — than you do on the feelings of the people who work for you every day. I can appreciate that you meant no offense, but you did cross a line. Consider this, then, an opportunity to learn more about your employees’ feelings, not from me but from them.

Good analysis. Ariel goes on to offer advice to the business owner. Here is my response to the situation:

I’m not sure what type of ‘blessing’ it is when it leads a storeowner to alienate all of his female staff! Had the customer and his holy man asked for all blacks or all Jews or anyone with a disability to be removed, perhaps it might have been clearer to the owner that the request was inappropriate, just as it was to ask for the women to exit. Yes, an apology would be appropriate, and not only to the women but also to the men who may have also been offended by the idea.

The real opportunity now would be to go beyond the apology and orchestrate some open discussion about the type of business the owner and the employees want this to be, how to engage with challenging requests from customers, and how to keep lines of communication flowing.

So here is your chance to be the coach:

1. While your first reaction might just be to deny the customer’s request, how would you advise this business owner to effectively redirect the customer, or otherwise be supportive of the customer without offending employees?

2. Suppose the business owner came to you with the situation he posed to Ariel. What would you advise him to do?

BestCustomerConnection, by Marc Sokol

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Marc Sokol
A psychologist with an eye for the ways organizational dynamics make it possible or impossible to delight customers, I see the world from the eyes of customers, employees and leaders who strive to transform customer experience.


  1. This definitely an opportunity to engage your employees in a conversation about work ethics, egalitarianism and community.


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