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A Personal Message from CEO Mike Willoughby to All PFSweb Global Employees

There is no doubt that our world is at a pivotal moment with the recent events in the U.S., forcing us to come to grips with the brokenness and pain we continue to experience trying to reconcile as a human race.  Without regard for our individual personal experience, surely we can agree that the images we have seen of the horrific unjust treatment and unwarranted death of George Floyd while in the custody of those entrusted to serve and protect are evidence of an attack on our shared humanity?  Furthermore, those images merge with a stream of similar recent images with the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and from my hometown and faith community, Botham Jean, merge with even more images of senseless deaths over decades and across centuries representing repeated assaults on the one thing that is universal about our human experience – the inherent value of our individual human lives.

Our value as human beings was not bestowed upon us by our fellow humans, and when we continue to witness that value so casually disregarded by other human beings without comment or protest, we run the risk of becoming complicit in the injustice.  Recent events in the U.S. have reminded the world of generational inequalities of black and minority communities in the U.S. and across the world – not only the denial of basic privileges of freedom, housing, education, healthcare and job opportunities but also fundamental human and civil rights. I cannot begin to understand their suppressed pain, frustrations, and fears. However, these systemic and institutional problems will not go away until we stand by our brother and sister instead of being mere bystanders. If you join me in believing all lives matter before God, we must first finally work to create agreement throughout our society that Black Lives Matter and back up that agreement with constructive action leading to permanent change. There is clearly so much work to be done.

This has been an especially jarring experience for me because I have been so encouraged and grateful for the unity with which our company has responded to the challenge of the COVID-19 crisis that I was caught off guard by the jolting sense of disunity which comes from seeing the images of George Floyd lying on the pavement.  It has taken some time to process this latest act of senseless violence, and yet I am left with the conviction that surely, I can’t be a bystander with that kind of injustice.  I am also left with the resolve that, if we have been so united in our response to the threat of a virus, how much more should we be united in our response to the much more dangerous, deep and persistent issues of injustice, hatred, racism, bigotry, and acts against humanity which flow from these issues?  Perhaps there is some unanticipated value in the timing of the COVID-19 crisis that it could shake us out of our comfort zones, put us into a mode where we are embracing massive changes in order to perhaps finally come to terms with the enormous changes required for us to learn how to just love one another as God has always intended?  Maybe it’s just time for us all to agree that if I’m not part of the solution, I’m just part of the problem. The time has come and gone for bystanders on this issue.

So, what will we do with this opportunity for change?  Will we choose as a species to squander the opportunity to move forward, or will we take up the challenge?  What can I do as one individual human being, and what can we do as a workplace community in the face of a global hatred pandemic as old as the human race?

  • I can take captive to love and compassion, every interaction I have with another human being, and give them the respect they deserve and with which they have been endowed by their creator.  I have complete control over my own actions and attitude!
  • We can, as a workplace community, all recognize that injustice is never distributed equally, and members of our work family experience injustices and a series of injustices that came before uniquely. We can create space for teammates to grieve and honor the need to speak up or slow down in a way that provides the opportunity for self-healing.
  • We can suppress the natural human tendency to talk a lot more than we listen and start to really just listen to the stories of pain and heartache that should be part of our shared experience but from which we may selfishly shield ourselves creating, perhaps unintentionally, a divide that perpetuates the problem.
  • We can admit that this is not a problem with a quick fix.  Perhaps we can have a new sense of urgency and a heightened acceptance of change at this moment in time, but permanent change will require heavy lifting we have never been willing or able to undertake as a people.  Slogans, campaigns, press releases, and protests may raise awareness and create momentum, but this is a problem with hearts and minds.  Changing hearts and minds on a global scale is a massive undertaking and requires commitment, and I believe, prayer.
  • We can, having admitted the scale of the problem, nevertheless make that firm commitment to do better and be better in the future and simply treat others as we would ourselves want to be treated. We can come together to drive inclusion by cultivating respectful, trusting, and honest work relationships and friendships. We can help build a more fair and just society by speaking up and speaking out whenever we witness injustice. We can help each other bring our whole selves to work and be even more successful. We can make that commitment to do better and be better as individuals and as a company.

I don’t yet know the specific programs, initiatives and other actions we can and should take as a company to ensure we are not bystanders in this situation long-term.  We are heartbroken for the Floyd, Arbery, Taylor, and Jean families and so many other families that have lost loved ones to similar brutalities. We grieve our communities and countries that deeply need healing. I also feel called to personally pray for guidance and wisdom, and I welcome your prayers on my behalf.  I do know that the work Latrice Robinson, Vice President of Human Resources, and I started two years ago with a simple commitment to be better and do better in the area of respect and inclusion must begin anew.  We made a start, and we have made measurable progress in areas, and that is good.  However, the old ways are clearly not enough for this massive problem.

We will recommit to the hard work, and we ask you to join us.  I will continue to drive a company culture of openness and respect.  I will continue to push forward our sustained efforts to continue building an inclusive and diverse workplace across the world and throughout our organizational structures. You can begin by starting constructive conversations, brain-storming solutions, building bridges, and bubbling up suggestions to me and our global HR team.  We will commit to more listening and less talking (see #3 above).  You can also join me in gratitude for the unity we have enjoyed during this difficult COVID-19 crisis and in prayer that we can use that unity to serve us in hard work ahead.  I believe in our species, and I believe the power of communities to make a difference.  I love our work community, and I have faith we can make a difference in this broken world.  Let’s make a difference together!

I will leave you with these words from my August 2018 global announcement of our Respect and Inclusion initiative:

“As you reflect on the basics provided through this training opportunity, I would encourage you to think beyond the base requirements included in the prepared content and consider all the ways in which our diversity contributes to our success and how important it is for us to treat each other with respect and be unified as a workforce.  Treating everyone with respect is not only the right thing to do – it’s also good business. When we recognize the uniqueness of others and include other viewpoints in our decision-making, we have the power to create a more effective work environment, protect ourselves from liability, and discover innovative ways of doing business that keep us competitive.”

“While we are unified in working toward our common mission and vision, we each bring very different human experiences, cultural and racial backgrounds and worldviews to our workplace.  We also have different roles to play within our organization based on our individual career experiences and unique talents.  Regardless of our differences and beyond any unifying corporate mission, vision or even natural law, we all have our humanity in common.  I believe all humans have inherent value and deserve to be treated with respect. Therefore, it is my personal goal to express this basic human respect in all my interactions.”

Today I recommit myself to that most basic personal goal, and I invite you to join me.