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In all the discussion of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s “rahodeb” postings, one thing I haven’t seen discussed is the impact on the Wild Oats employees and culture. Can you imagine working at Wild Oats these days? Before the “rahodeb” issues surfaced, you’ll recall, Whole Foods was trying to buy the natural foods grocer. I don’t know anything about the company’s culture, but before last week, employees there must have been at least intrigued at the idea of working for Whole Foods, which was number five on Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For list last year and is known for its unique management practices, such as allowing employees to vote on health care plans.
Then, suddenly, they find out the guy who might be their next boss has been writing under an assumed name and badmouthing their company online, calling it “a mediocre company with a terrible track record.” Talk about an impact on culture. If Mackey manages to keep his job, and if the merger somehow manages to go through (the FTC is trying to block the merger, and some think the “rahodeb” chronicles could provide another obstacle), I’d venture that Mackey’s going to have one helluva job on his hands earning the trust of the Wild Oats employee base, much less even facing them. A misjudgment? Definitely. A legal quagmire? Possibly, but, say many, doubtful. A miscalculation of the potential long-term effects of a leader’s actions? Absolutely.
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