Should I Quit? My Boss Wants to Exclude Blacks From Ads

If the president of your company told you not to include African Americans in advertising, would you quit? Here's what the White Guy advises.

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Ask the White Guy Luke ViscontiQuestion:
I am an ad exec. Recently, at a company meeting of 12 employees, the president told the staff not to include African Americans in the advertising. He said that the client (Fortune global 50 company) did not like them.

Is this wrong? Is there anything I can do without endangering my family and its finances?

Yes, it’s wrong, not only morally but in the best interests of your other customers, your fellow employees and your shareholders. The evidence I see is that companies with superior ethics and integrity are more competitive and sustainable over the long term. My favorite example of ethics in practice is Johnson & Johnson (No. 17 on The 2007 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list), which publishes its “credo” on just about every flat surface, including in stone in its corporate-headquarters entrance, and runs the company that way.

On an amoral and pragmatic basis, my answer is the same. Not only is a bigot likely to make other bad business decisions, with 12 witnesses and today’s technology, you cannot expect this kind of thing to stay out of the public’s view.

Since the lack of diversity in your industry recently was the focus of a special commission set up by the city of New York, feeding into bigotry would be yet another reason for other clients to cut your fees as they are paying you for judgment (which your firm’s leadership clearly does not have).

As far as your personal choices, my feeling is that you must find another job. Let’s face it: This is the bone-headed decision you know about. What else is going on behind closed doors? It wouldn’t be a “career-enhancing move” to be named in Ad Age as part of the team that went along with this. Who would hire you for a responsible position with that on your résumé? Even a bigot with a modicum of self-preservation would hesitate.

If this situation becomes public after you leave, you’ll be recognized as a person with superior judgment.

Good luck, and use our career center.

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