Why GrubHub CEO Is Still in Deep You Know What

“I absolutely reject the nationalist, anti-immigrant and hateful politics of Donald Trump ... If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here.” GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney

There is something truly ironic about the way some executives say they support diversity and inclusion, unless of course you happen to disagree with their narrow point of view on the topic. In that case, tolerance be damned, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

Take GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney, for example. In a post-election email to employees entitled “Inclusion and Tolerance in the Workplace,” the 40-year-old cofounder said he supports different ideological perspectives, with one notable exception: employees who support Donald Trump’s views.

“While demeaning, insulting and ridiculing minorities, immigrants and the physically/mentally disabled worked for Mr. Trump, I want to be clear that this behavior - and these views, have no place at Grubhub,” he wrote. “Had he worked here, many of his comments would have resulted in his immediate termination.”

“Further, I reject the nationalist, anti-immigrant and hateful politics of Donald Trump and will work to shield our community from this movement as best as I can,” wrote Maloney. “If you do not agree with this statement then please reply to this email with your resignation because you have no place here.”

That email led to a viral backlash with calls to boycott the food delivery service. The hashtag #boycottgrubhub was trending on Twitter through much of the day on Thursday. To stem the bleeding, Maloney tried to clarify what he meant – kind of, sort of – but I think he only made matters worse. In any case, investors weren’t buying it. The stock finished the week with a two-day decline of 9%.

This, in part, is Maloney’s non-apology: “Some of the statements in my email have been misconstrued. I want to clarify that I did not ask for anyone to resign if they voted for Trump. I would never make such a demand. To the contrary, the message of the email is that we do not tolerate discriminatory activity or hateful commentary in the workplace, and that we will stand up for our employees.”

Here’s the thing. The problem is not that people misunderstood what Maloney wrote, but that Maloney doesn’t get what the backlash is really about.

Some in the media got it wrong, which comes as no surprise, but no CEO of a public company – no matter how misguided he was – is dumb enough to discriminate based on political ideology, at least not in writing and in such a blatant manner. That would be ludicrous if not illegal in some states.

The bigger issue is that Maloney branded Trump, and by association, his supporters, as hateful xenophobic bigots. And he clearly doesn’t want any of that sort of behavior at his company. The problem is, Trump supporters do not see the president elect, nor themselves, in that harsh light. And the notion that their CEO does presents a bit of a problem.

It’s as if Maloney is telling employees who backed Trump, I think the guy you voted for is against everything I stand for, I don’t want that sort of behavior at my company, and if you disagree with that statement, you need to go. That’s essentially what Maloney wrote. It’s that characterization of Trump’s policies that he has not apologized for or walked back. That is the problem.  

Never mind the hypocrisy of such extreme intolerance masquerading as tolerance. And Maloney seems to have his head stuck so far up his left-leaning ideology that he can’t even see his own bias and the awkward position he’s putting his workers in. That, I believe, is what everyone is up in arms over. If I were a GrubHub employee, investor or customer who voted for Trump, I would feel alienated, coerced and outraged.

Frankly, I’m surprised. It’s shockingly myopic, if not downright incompetent, for the CEO of a consumer-facing company to risk insulting half his stakeholders that way. I know he’s a co-founder, but still. I think the board has some work to do. And given this overheated post-election climate, I’ll reiterate something I say often, but apparently not often enough: If your business isn’t politics, keep politics out of your business.