Employees: Empathy is a Two-Way Street

We’ve been talking a lot about empathy in leadership. And after years at his, I’m realizing that many of us empathy activists might be perpetuating a problem: 

Some employees and team members think empathy is just a one-way street.

I’m not going to point any generational fingers at anyone, but many leaders I speak to in my workshops and keynotes are struggling with their, often younger, employees. These leaders are working  very hard to listen, engage, and connect with their teams. They are trying to embrace empathy.

But their team members are not extending the same courtesy

Empathy is not just a leader’s job. It’s a skill that everyone up and down the organization needs to strengthen and practice to ensure respect AND performance. (TWEET THIS!)

Here’s what I hear:

” I’m trying to be empathetic to my team, but when work slips and I ask for improved performance or extra commitment, I am instantly accused of not respecting boundaries.”

“I am bending over backwards to help my employee through some hard times, but now my team is working double-time to pick up the slack because the work still needs to get done.”

“I’m trying so hard to help everyone on my team who is affected by layoffs. Those who have to leave and those left behind. But I’m constantly met with anger, abuse, and disrespect. Where’s empathy for me? How can we get through this together? My health and stress are also suffering.”

We don’t have to “feel sorry” for leaders when we are in a bad position ourselves. Lord knows a few of them have made difficult situations all about them with absolutely zero empathy for their employees. 

But how about a little compassion up the chain, rather than just expecting it for ourselves?

Employees need to understand the larger context of what is going on in the business and the market.  It’s unreasonable to make demands or ask for a raise at the precise moment the company is laying off thousands of workers and cutting budgets. As I constantly tell my 8-year-old son: You’ve got to pick your moments.

If you as a team member want empathy from your leader, you need to extend it to them as well. Not everything can fall into a neat little box or be easy when times are tough, as they are right now in our economic uncertain times. Yes, stand up for yourself, set boundaries, take care of your mental health. 

All of us – leaders and workers – can show resilience. Show savvy. Show empathy.

We need to do the jobs we were hired to do – the company can’t perform and succeed if we don’t.  And we can be good teammates in a crisis. That might mean doing a bit more than expected, hopefully for a short period of time. But DO THE WORK.

If the work is too much, your skills are up to snuff, or you are simply overwhelmed – have THAT conversation with your manager. Find a way to solve the issues. Ask for help reprioritizing. Come up with creative solutions. Yes, maybe even work a few late nights to help your team through. Or perhaps, think about if you are really in the right role. I’m calling foul on those who use “lack of empathy” as a weapon when they simply can’t or won’t do the work – or won’t even temporarily do a little extra when tough times call for it.

Empathy is not just a leader’s job. It’s the job of everyone on the team to be empathetic to every human on the team – and that includes empathy for the leader. 

Photo credit: Ivan Aleksic

What Causes Quiet Quitting?

Your employees don’t have a commitment problem. You have a leadership and culture problem. 

Quiet quitting, in case you haven’t heard, means doing exactly what you’re required to do at your job and not a bit more. It’s really just a trending term for disengagement. Folks don’t outright quit but they fail to do more than the bare minimum, and they may or may not be quietly looking for a new gig on the side. And we even see a trend in schools with students who are burned out or overwhelmed.

Some senior leaders (read: Baby Boomers, or even Gen Xers that are my age, I admit) want to blame this on the same old thing they blame everything on: Today’s generation of workers are entitled, lazy, and want the world before they are willing to get any work done.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

When I worked in the corporate world before striking out on my own, I always used to tell my managers that the minute they needed to start worrying about me, was the minute I stopped being squeaky wheel, asking how we could do things differently, or playing devil’s advocate. And it was true. Ask anyone: I worked my a** off and delivered results, but I could be….well,” tenacious” might be a kinder word for it!

I remember the jobs and bosses that completely disempowered me. That never appreciated my contribution, or that robbed me of control over my career destiny. In those jobs, I started shutting up and looking elsewhere.

When employees are engaged and feel they are seen, heard, and valued – when they know their extra efforts have an impact – there is nothing they won’t do for you. 

Here’s the great news: Quiet quitting is not new – it’s just a trending hashtag now. (TWEET THIS!)

And it has never, ever been about the employee’s work ethic or talent. It’s always been about the environment they found themselves in and the people they work for and with. A smart person knows they should not give us their time, energy, or effort in a paid job unless they are receiving something in return. To call quiet quitting “laziness” or entitlement is just laziness and entitlement on the part of a MANAGER who wants to shift the blame.

Lead with empathy, actively listen, reward equitably, honor your people as human beings and proactively create an environment where employees can make a real impact and you will not have to worry about anyone quiet quitting on you. Full stop.

Photo credit: Charles Deluvio

More resources you may love:

Let’s Redefine Kind in Business

3 Leadership and Innovation Lessons from 100 Podcasts

Rebecca Friese on The Empathy Edge Podcast: How to Build a “Good” Culture

 Let’s Talk About A Better Workplace Culture

Seth Godin’s daily posts range from the inspirational to the tactical. The mundane to the philosophical. So when a post punches me in the gut, in the best possible way, it gets me thinking. Which is his goal: Stop existing. Start thinking. Disrupt the status quo.

Recently, he wrote a post called But First, We Need to Talk About. The gist is that what we are willing to talk about gets attention, resources, and energy.  So when we’re unwilling to talk about end-of-life health care costs or oppressive capitalist systems, we can’t change things. Instead, we pour countless hours of conversation into things like political infighting, Tik Tok crazes, or why Kim Kardashian ever dated Pete Davidson (those last 2 are way far out of my wheelhouse)

The realization hit me: This is why I’m talking about empathy at work and creating better leaders, cultures, and brands. I want us to pay attention, yes, but to actually make a change. Transform.

It started out with helping my clients craft an empathetic and engaging brand story, rooted in purpose. And yes, advising them on where they need to walk that talk in their culture, leadership, processes, or habits.  But it’s become a bigger movement to me. One in which we rethink our existing models and narratives of leadership and organizational success.

For too long, we’ve adopted false and binary narratives that you have to choose between humanity and profits. That compassionate leaders cannot also be competitive. That ambition can’t co-exist with empathy and collaboration. That we need to be one person at work and another when we’re off the clock.

Who the hell made these rules? Oh, right, we did. Humans. Our capitalist and industrialized society.

And we blindly bought into this status quo.

Here’s the great news: We as humans have the power to CHANGE those rules. They are not laws of physics that cannot be broken. We made them. We can make new ones.. (TWEET THIS!)

But first, we gotta talk about it. 

We have to talk about what is not working, where we are not being inclusive, and how our business practices might be harming our people or the environment.  We need to admit that profit had been held up above all other concerns for too long.  And that we can have both/and rather than either/or. 

Then we need to talk about how we get there. How we re-establish new rules together. How we create a better workplace culture. How we make the entire for-business system better.

Are you ready to talk to your leaders, teams, and customers about the future of work and the empathy revolution? I’d love to help. Let’s chat about a transformative and provocative talk to kick this into action for your organization tomorrow! 

3 Ways to Practice Empathy at Work

3 Ways to Practice Empathy at Work

At a book signing, the panel moderator told me that she recommended my book, The Empathy Edge, to her friend – let’s call her Jennifer. Jennifer was in a really bad work situation with what she deemed an out of touch manager. Her boss treated her badly, didn’t listen to her ideas and generally acted like he was too busy to be there for his team. Jennifer was pretty fed up by this point, and knowing her worth and value in the market, was about to walk away. But she did like her job so she was eager to read my book.

Jennifer read my book and loved every word (the moderator’s words, not mine!). She promptly marched into her boss’ office the next day and before he could say a word, shoved the book in his hands and said, “I’m not happy with how you manage me or the team. It’s so hard to come to work everyday, but I love this job. I’m asking you to read this book and in a week, we can sit down and discuss it. If you don’t, I’m leaving.”

Her boss was stunned. To his credit, he did as he was asked.

They ended up having a great conversation. He had no idea how his actions were being perceived or the emotional toll it was taking on Jennifer. They made a plan to change how he treated the team, how he communicated, and also how the team responded and worked together to address his concerns as well.

Jennifer stayed in her job,

I have no idea if Jennifer is still there, but I love this story so much. It shows how much we can gain by communicating and being vulnerable when we have nothing left to lose. Her boss recognized many actions and intentions in himself from the book and, wanting to be a better leader and build a high-performing team, was willing to have the conversation.

Showing empathy at work is not as complicated as you think. (Tweet This!)

Here are 3 ways you can practice empathy at work:

  • Ask questions and actively listen: Whether you are the manager or just on a team of colleagues, start defaulting to “I’m right and you’re wrong” and instead ask questions first. “Tell me more about your idea. What makes you believe it’s the way to go? How do you see this meeting our goals?” 
  • Find common ground: In high-stakes situations, establish the common goal you both have, however basic, so you get on the same side of the table, rather than acting like two opposing forces. “We can both agree we want this campaign to succeed and drive more leads, right?” Even if it seems obvious, it’s a great way to diffuse tension and remind yourselves you are both on the same team. 
  • Check in with people: Before diving into the business end of the meeting, take a moment for everyone to ground themselves and share what’s going on for them. One CEO does this with his exec team every Monday, and they share how their weekends went, if they had fun, if they’re having a difficult time with their kids, etc. This gives others context to know where people are coming from and what they might need. It avoids assuming someone is being rude or testy because they don’t like your idea when the truth is that they stayed up all night potty training the new puppy.

Discover more actionable ways to be a more empathetic leader and create a more empathetic culture in my book The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of Compassion as an Engine for Success. And learn from other innovative leaders on The Empathy Edge podcast!

Photo Credit: Aleksandra Sapozhnikova on Unsplash

3 Leadership and Innovation Lessons from 50 Empathy Interviews

50 EPISODES! I’ve now recorded 50 episodes of The Empathy Edge Podcast and have learned so much from these inspiring leaders, changemakers, and rockstars. 

This podcast was a way for me to continue my research and my own learnings about empathy in action after I was done writing the book. And man, I’m so glad I am doing this! If you’ve been listening, you’ve heard from CEO’s, CMO’s, communications experts, and even social entrepreneurs about how they are puytting empathy to work in their business models and reaping the rewards.

Here are 3 inspiring lessons that my guests have shared with us about empathy’s role in our work and society (Tweet This!)

  1. Innovation can’t happen without optimism: The need for optimism is vital to social change but also innovation and advancement. I’ve spoken with leaders toiling away at redefining success in our workplaces and broader culture – and taking a long term view. It would be so easy to say they are dreaming or “It will never happen” but they are  committed to seeing it through. They are hacking away at it and succeeding –  and that is what it takes to ignite change.

Episodes to check out:

Susanna Camp and Jonathan Littman: What’s Your Entrepreneurial Type?
Kara Goldin: Undaunted Leadership
Ian Bently: Conscious Consumerism Meets Conscious Brands for the Win

  1. People-First leadership is not a passing fad: So many inspiring stories with real ROI and business success. We are no longer lacking models – we just have to elevate the people doing this and having success so this can quickly become the norm. Most management models are outdated and actually hinder success in the modern era.

Episodes to check out:

Rebecca Friese: How to Build a “Good” Culture
Susan Hunt Stevens: The ROI of Psychological Safety
Scott Burns: 5 Workplace Concepts That Won’t Exist in 5 Years
Jay Baer: How Empathy Gets Your Customers Talking

  1. We can all do more: If anything, the guests I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing inspire me and my listeners to find their niche and DO MORE. Whether they are launching social enterprises, mdoeling empathy in their own organizations, or tackling systemic racism, they are taking steps. There’s enough work to be done to close the empathy gap. Find your passion and attack it from there.

Episodes to check out:

M.E. Hart: How to Bridge Divisions by Embracing Our Common Humanity
Gabrielle Thomas: Using Your Voice and Platform to Impact Change
Karen Catlin: How to be a Real Ally
Terri Givens: Radical Empathy to Bridge Racial Divides
Elisa Camahort Page: The Art of Empathy in Politics, Activism and Media BS

If you haven’t yet, you’re invited to check out The Empathy Edge podcast!

Soak up the insights and inspiration while you work out, fold laundry, or take a daily walk. Please subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google.  (And kindly leave an honest review if you’re able!)

Have podcast suggestions for future guests, format, or topics? Would love to hear from you!

Photo Credit: Becca Henry

Are you an Empathy Hijacker?

“We can relate to people without hijacking the conversation” Communication expert Sharon Steed.

Sharon and I connected recently as we were both on an empathy panel together. I’m in love with her work transforming company culture with empathy. She has a great LinkedIn course about communicating with more empathy as well, and that’s where I got this insightful quote.

People often assume that sharing similar experiences with someone is empathy. Not quite. Empathy is more about listening and sitting with someone to see things from their point of view. Unless asked, it’s not about you hijacking the conversation and making it about you. 

You know you’re doing this if you ever tell someone: “I know how you feel, when this happened to me, I…..”

I say this with love, because I think we all (myself included) do this in an effort to show people we understand them. It’s our way of active listening and our intention is to make others not feel so alone. So I get it.

During my long recovery from a ruptured brain aneurysm, and even today, as I struggle with life-long cognitive impairments as a result, well-intentioned people do this all the time:

“You have to write everything down? Oh my gosh, I forget things all the time, too. You’re just getting older like the rest of us!”

“Wow, now you know how I feel, not remembering dates and faces.”

“I have bad short-term memory too – it must just be mommy brain!”

All of these are well-intentioned attempts to connect. But all this does is diminish another person’s pain and experience. For me, when someone says this, it negates everything I went through, all the therapy, education, and struggle, as if it’s no big deal. 

Somewhere along the line, we mistakenly learned that sharing your own similar experience was empathy. It’s not. (Tweet This!)

Empathy is about perspective taking, information gathering, and actively listening. It’s about acknowledging another person’s experience. Yes, where appropriate one can share lessons learned or how they got through something, but the initial sharing is not the time. Just be patient. Give the person room to process and share first before you dive in with wisdom or advice.

Your response is about you, not the other person. You want to feel more comfortable, or “fix” things for the other person. That is not what they need. They need to feel heard.

You can understand someone without hijacking the conversation.

Sharon also shared this gem in her LinkedIn course: “Patience means slowing down your response to judgement. Without patience, there is no empathy” (Tweet This!)

When someone is sharing their experiences, here are 4 things you can say instead:

  1. Tell me more…
  2. Wow, that must have been a lot to go through. How does it make you feel?
  3. What I hear you saying is…..is that right or do you want to share more? I’d love to understand more.
  4. How can I help?/What support do you think you might need?

Got more? Tweet me @redslice or DM me on Instagram @redslicemaria

Photo Credit: Jude Beck via Unsplash

5 Ways Empathy Benefits Your Business

Empathy is good for business. Here’s how.

Empathy is not just good for society, it is good for your organization’s performance. 

(Yes, if I have to speak to selfish motives to make the world more empathetic, I will!) 

Empathy has been shown to have a direct impact on everything from customer loyalty to innovation to profits. When embraced with genuine intent and not simply as a glossy PR veneer, empathy can offer your organization countless benefits beyond just, well, being a good corporate citizen and doing the right thing for people!  

Caveat: While empathy offers all these wonderful benefits, it must be genuine. Your organization can’t just paint a glossy empathy veneer on for good press. 

It must truly embed empathy at the leadership, culture, and external brand levels.  (Tweet This!)

Here are 5 proven ways that empathy benefits your business:   

  1. Empathy spurs innovation: When you understand your customers, you can keep pace with changing needs and desires. Internal studies at Google found that their most innovative and profitable ideas came from teams leading with soft skills, such as empathy. 
  2. Empathy aligns you with customer wants and needs: The more in tune you are with your customers, the faster you can deliver best-fit products or services before your competitors catch on. In order to know what customers desire, you must see things from their perspective. Building an ideal customer profile will help you know what their life is like. Steve Jobs, for instance, focused on understanding a customer so well that Apple’s product designers knew what the customer wanted before they did. 
  3. Empathy improves employee performance: Employees with more empathy and collaboration skills can often outperform and advance faster than those with purely the technical skills to succeed. Organizations find that having these skills aids in team members’ individual successes. 
  4. Empathetic brands — and workplaces — appeal to millennials and Gen Z: As professionals, they are among the most diverse generations in the workforce and seek to leverage diverse perspectives to solve tough business challenges. They stick with employers who embrace new perspectives and value their points of view. As consumers, they’re loyal to companies and brands that care and make a difference. 
  5. Empathy drives sales, growth, and market performance: The best and most progressive corporations have begun to adopt and employ compassionate business tactics, which have improved their standing in the market. Many companies report improved metrics such as a healthier stock price, higher valuation and increased revenue. 

Want to read more about how empathetic mindsets and practices specifically benefit your leaders, culture, and brand performance? Please download this free guide: Five Ways Empathy Benefits Your Brand, Performance, and Culture 

And don’t forget to check out my new book, The Empathy Edge: Harnessing the Value of Compassion as an Engine for Success (A Playbook for Brands, Leaders, and Teams. You’ll get an even deeper dive into research and case studies that process these benefits and get actionable steps you can take right now to make yourself and your organization more empathetic. 

Don’t compromise your story

Don't Compromise Your Story

Sometimes, we are so confident and passionate about the story we have to tell. We know that we can offer tremendous value, whether through our own brand story for customers or a creative story that leads to art, music, poetry or dance.

Commerce and art are similar. When the story inspires you and resonates for others, things just seem to flow.

Which is what was happening for me as I began the journey of writing The Empathy Edge in early 2017. After some fumbling, I had articulated the message in my heart (thanks to wise help from the fabulous Alexandra Franzen). I was pumped. I had a vision. People validated me with “Yes! This is the business book we need. We need to show that empathy at work and with your customers is the modern success model. Write it. Pleeeeaaaassssse!”

And then, as I pitched to literary agents, the fog rolled in again.

Thankfully, all of them made time to give me detailed feedback or talk with me. They were generous and kind. I was flattered they thought I was a great writer.

But then:

“Well, I’m just not sure where this really fits or how to position it.”

“I don’t know if this will fly to a business audience.”


“I can totally sell this book to a publisher if you change it from “empathy” to be a book about how ‘ feminine traits’ make organizations successful. Will you change it?”

What?! NO.

See, that was their agenda, not mine. They were looking for a neat slot to put me in, something easy to sell. And their publishing partners were pressuring them to find “more books about women’s topics.” (This was right in the thick of the Me Too movement). 

They told me they could sell this book. If I didn’t write the book I wanted to write.

I kindly said no. And pressed on.

See, my entire point with The Empathy Edge and this message that  “cash flow, creativity, and compassion are not mutually exclusive” is to make it gender-neutral. It’s not about male or female traits. Empathy is a HUMAN trait. 

And if I pigeonholed it as “owned” by one gender, I’d lose the opportunity to reach the very audience who, for better or worse, currently makes up the majority of business leaders. And frankly, some of my least empathetic bosses were women, so we don’t have a lock on this either, people.

Most importantly, I’d lose those male allies who were models of empathetic leadership – and who wanted this book to help bring other male colleagues along and help me change the conversation.

So, I said no. To a sweet deal. To it being easier.

The lesson: Don’t let anyone else shape your story. If it fuels you and resonates with others, stop at nothing to tell it. (TWEET THIS!)

And now you can read the book that I wanted to write.

The pre-launch sale for The Empathy Edge is going on now. Click here for details. Buy before October 22 and get some fabulous goodies, including an invite to my exclusive author Q&A, a bonus expert video series, and even, at larger quantities, a free customized workshop for your team or event.

And, when you read it, I’d love to know: Did I make the right decision?

PS: To get some fabulous bonuses, including an exclusive author Q&A webinar, bonus video training and more, pre-order your copies of The Empathy Edge right here: https://red-slice.com/eebonus/  

After placing your order, just submit your receipt on that page, and enjoy your goodies! Order by October 22. Thank you so much for your kind support! It means the world.

A Tale of Two Customer Experiences


Empathy is the secret to happy customers

Customer experience is now a defining competitive edge.

In fact, this Forbes.com article states that customer experience is one of the top disruptive trends in business this year.

So let me ask you: Which customer experience would you rather have?

  • One where the customer service rep responds promptly, empathizes with your issue, and offers you options to solve your problem, even if it may not be the original solution you’d had in mind?
  • Or one where the customer service rep blames their lack of responsiveness on the company being too successful to manage all their new business, implying it’s somehow your fault for being impatient?

These were two such experiences I had recently. The first with, of all companies, a cable company. The second, with what is supposed the be a new darling of online retailing.

What made the difference? EMPATHY.

Empathy is not just a feel good trait. It’s an essential brand advantage that impacts sales and customer experience. Especially when dealing with an upset customer or client. (TWEET THIS!)

The bad customer service rep (for lack of a better term) blamed me for the initial problem, acted like she didn’t care at all that I was now in a bind, and haughtily said to me, “Well, I can’t help do anything about it” to which, when I prompted, “Well can you ASK someone who CAN do something,” she replied with indifference, “”Sure, I guess I’ll ask if something can be done, but I don’t think so.” Yep. She never asked.

The good customer service rep immediately empathized with my frustration and shock over a huge increase in my monthly bill (“Wow! I would totally feel the same way if I’d opened up a bill and saw that increase too! Let’s see what’s going on here.”)

The bad customer service rep had canned email responses that were supposed to “show empathy” – except when you get the same phrase in every single email, it’s clear it’s from a script (“We never want our customers to have that kind of experience.”) Well, clearly you do if you do nothing to fix the process.

The good customer service rep had no script. She looked at my account and customized a solution on the fly. (“Let me check something real quick. I think I can move your plan to another one we now have available so you’re paying the same price you were before.”)

Google has seen the business benefits of empathy. Company research projects have revealed that its most innovative ideas, productive teams and high-performers rank empathy high as a crucial factor to success.  Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella cites empathy as the most important catalyst for innovation.

How do we build empathy into the customer experience?

  • Implement the right processes: Empower customer service reps to do what it takes to solve the issue and not tie their hands with onerous “permission getting.” Allow for fast resolutions and creative problem solving.
  • Hire right: Emotional intelligence is crucial. Don’t just staff a body. Be sure you are screening and hiring people who have shown empathy in past roles. Ask them how they collaborate, problem solve or handle angry customers. Role play scenarios in the interview and see how they respond.
  • Scale for success: Your success is no excuse for a poor experience. Don’t blame “too many customers” on the reason you don’t have enough reps or logistical support to solve problems. Don’t blame your email system for not getting customer complaints. That’s on you.
  • Acknowledge feelings: While it’s tempting to not want to legally “take blame” for something that went wrong, you can still be human and say you are sorry the customer is having such a bad experience. Acknowledging their angry or hurt feelings by relating to them from a similar experience you have had can go a long way to easing the pain.

It’s not enough to have a great product. The bad customer service experience company has a great product and it’s killing me that I just don’t want to give them any more of my money.

Image Credit: Photo by Jared Sluyter on Unsplash

A Dear John letter for Starbucks

Dear Starbucks,

We’ve been through a lot, you and I.  But it’s time for me to see other brands. It’s not you, it’s me. No, that’s a lie. It’s totally you.

You swept me off my feet in my early 20’s and taught me how to love coffee – for that I will be eternally grateful. Late Saturday mornings in Chicago. Stolen afternoons in Washington D.C. Even in Indianapolis – back before they actually had a Starbucks – I made do with brief encounters with you at Barnes and Noble whenever I could.

I adored everything about you and people were sick of hearing about my brand crush. I devoured Howard Schulz’s autobiography, Pour Your Heart Into It, as a brand manifesto for how to delight customers and make a a difference. You created a cherished “Third Place” for people to gather – and when I began working for myself, you were right there by my side, hosting meetings and giving me a comfy place to work.

Others tried to make me hate you. Especially when I moved to Seattle (I was thrilled to live in your hometown!). They scorned you as a mass market sell-out, a bland factory coffee line for people who didn’t know better. They scoffed at your hipster lingo, your (in their eyes) sub-par quality. “No, but I love them!” I would scream. Starbucks delivers everything they promise and that’s why they are so great. They deliver a convenient, cozy and consistent experience.  And the Seattle Starbucks locations were flawless models of efficiency, service, and experience.

I held you up as my Prince Charming of a Brand Story.

But then, I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area and something changed. You stopped delivering the brand benefits I’d come to know and love.

Every Starbucks in the Bay Area let me down – on the Peninsula to be exact. At first, I thought it was a fluke. Had to just be one store. So I tried another. And another. Same story: long wait times, non-engaging baristas, even inconsistent latte quality.  I witnessed your baristas being surly, brusque and downright rude sometimes. Then you started warming up pastries – and nearly scalded my tongue. Why were you being so mean? I thought maybe, since we weren’t in Seattle anymore, you just stopped trying to impress Corporate visitors who might pop in.

Still I kept defending you. I tried to communicate with you. Reaching out on Twitter several times, you gave me radio silence. Other brands like Virgin America and Nordstrom respond back, but you, you just gave me the cold shoulder.

My loyalty is worth more than this, I thought.  So I started dating around. And every time I went somewhere else, I felt like they valued me and my time more that you do. They delivered my latte hot, fresh, and fast. It tasted better. The baristas smiled at me. They seemed like they had their acts together.

And then, the kicker. Peet’s started offering almond milk. Oh, how could I resist?

I tried to get you to change. I tweeted several times to ask if you’d please carry almond milk. No response. I even asked the baristas in store and they said they just couldn’t do it.

I think that was the final straw. I’m a valuable customer and waiting inordinately long amounts of time on a brand who says its fast and convenient just to get bad service, a burnt tongue and inconsistent latte quality – on top of not being able to get the milk I want – is not something I’m willing to stand for any longer.

So I’m leaving you, Dear Starbucks. I emptied the last cent on my Starbucks card and I now frequent my neighborhood Peet’s as well as an indie coffeehouse I discovered.

Oh sure, I’ll call you for a quick hook up now and then. You do make a great gift card. And when I have no other option, I’ll see  if you’re around. But to be non-committal, I pay cash instead of  reloading my Starbucks card  – so no need to give me any more free drinks on my birthday. We don’t have that kind of relationship anymore.

I wish you the best, Starbucks. I really do. You’ve done a lot of good for a long time. But a brand has to be consistent to be brilliant. (Tweet this!)  If you feel like changing – at least in the Bay Area – and being the brand I fell in love once again, give me a call sometime.



Photo credit (edited): Siti Fatimah on Flickr

Got a brand you’d like to break up with? Jot down your brand Dear John letter in the Comments below and vent away!