Should McDonald’s CEO have been fired over a ‘consensual relationship’?
Steve Easterbrook has generally gotten positive marks for the changes that he has made since taking over as CEO of McDonald’s in 2015. Mr. Easterbrook, who previously served as the fast food chain’s chief brand officer and ran some of its European divisions before that, presumably knows as much as anyone when it comes to McDonald’s corporate culture and rules of conduct. That’s what makes yesterday’s announcement that McDonald’s board fired him after learning that “he violated company policy and demonstrated poor judgment involving a recent consensual relationship with an employee” all the more puzzling.
In an email to employees, The New York Times reports, Mr. Easterbrook wrote that he had made “a mistake” and agreed with the board that “it is time for me to move on.” McDonald’s has not released details about the relationship or how it came to the attention of the company’s board.
The fact that Mr. Easterbrook had a relationship with a co-worker is not unusual. Office romances, for better and worse, have been a feature of the workplace probably for as long as there have been workplaces. That a person in a position of privilege within a business organization chose to ignore rules that apply to others is also not novel. From the outside looking in, however, it seems particularly odd in the age of #MeToo and allegations of sexual wrongdoing from Hollywood to the White House that Mr. Easterbrook would have knowingly put himself in this position, consensual relationship or not. All that matters, at this point, is that he did.
McDonald’s has named Chris Kempczinski, most recently the chain’s president of its U.S. business, as its new president and CEO, effective immediately.
“Chris takes the reins of this great company at a time of strong, sustained performance, and the board has every confidence that he is the best leader to set the vision and drive the plans for the company’s continued success,” said Enrique Hernandez Jr., McDonald’s chairman, in a statement. “He has the right mix of skills and experience to lead us forward having run our U.S. business, where franchisees are delivering strong financial and operational results, and overseen global strategy, business development and innovation. In particular, Chris was instrumental in the development of the company’s strategic plan, which has enabled global growth and leadership, and has overseen the most comprehensive transformation of the U.S. business in McDonald’s history.”
- McDonald’s Corporation Announces Leadership Transition – McDonald’s Corporation
- McDonald’s Fires C.E.O. Steve Easterbrook After Relationship With Employee – The New York Times
- McD’s makes a change at the top – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers and other businesses set rules that prohibit personal relationships between co-workers, regardless of their positions in the company? If not, what policies should companies set to handle such occurrences?