Howard Schultz – The Gold Standard for Great Bosses


Howard Schultz has long been known as a gold standard for corporate responsibility and a model of a good boss. As the CEO of Starbucks for two stints beginning in 1987 and still today, he advocated for better employee benefits such as healthcare and stock options. Schultz has repeatedly contended that Starbucks offers good benefits and pay, so employees do not need a union. His stance has put to the test recently with charges that Starbucks tried to interfere with unionization and collective-bargaining efforts at its stores while he was CEO. At the same time, Americans’ attitudes toward unions and large companies have shifted significantly and Gen Z, or people born from 1997 to 2012, have the most critical views of corporations and their leaders.

Starbucks is a Seattle-based coffee company that today has over 36,000 stores and 402,000 employees. The focus of the company, since its founding in 1987, has been to build its business around a point of honoring its customers and employees. It offers stock options, tuition assistance, and health insurance, including a 1986 contract for unionized Seattle Starbucks workers that Schultz initially opposed. At the same time, it has been trailed with criticisms of attempting to interfere with unionization and collective-bargaining efforts at its stores while Schultz was CEO.

Schultz himself is a former driver, whose father was fired from a job after suffering an injury. From this experience, he has said he decided to create a company where employees would be respected and with features in place to protect them from mistreatment, going as far as visiting hundreds of collaboration sessions and forums for workers to better understand them. Yet, Gen Z is the most targeted demographic for work in coffee shops, and their negative view of businesses and their leaders has Schultz facing an uphill battle in recruiting and retaining these young workers.