For the past few years, the world has shown a mixture of disgust and concern for the increasingly erratic behavior of musician, Kanye West. Despite a career punctuated by hit albums and singles, millions of dollars in concert tickets sold, and a level of popularity that was attractive to major brands, West is proving that there is a breaking point in which his behavior drives away his fans, and drives down revenue associated with his name. Not only has his personal rhetoric severely damaged his reputation across multiple industries, but now Kanye West is also garnering a track record of toxicity within corporate settings.
From crashing the award acceptance speeches of other musicians to changing his legal name to “Ye,” Kanye West is no stranger to being in the spotlight for his strange behavior. After garnering controversy by aligning himself with divisive figures such as former President Donald Trump and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, and exacerbating an acrimonious and very public divorce from ex-wife Kim Kardashian, the very mention of Kanye West’s name prompts eyerolls from many everyday fans and consumers. While the seemingly endless pageantry of grandstanding and posturing make it easy to dismiss his behavior as childish or inane, the reality is that Kanye West’s increasingly unacceptable behavior is having real impact in the professional world.
Given the totality of his documented behavior, it’s not an understatement to say Kanye West is a walking toxicity conduit. While we think of Kanye as an entertainer first, it’s difficult to remember that behind his entertainment empire are thousands of employees and business professionals who are required to deal with him on a weekly basis. Many of his public statements can be characterized as misogynistic, homophobic, racist, and even antisemitic. Kanye West has already publicly said problematic things about institutional hate and oppression—famously stating back in 2018 that 400 years of slavery in the United States was a choice for black people—but it wasn’t until recently that his words actually caused corporate partners to scatter to the winds.
Kanye first began partnering with Adidas in 2015 to release a line of footwear known as Yeezys. While Adidas was not the first footwear company to work with West, they certainly had the longest tenure. However, a series of tweets and public statements have recently caused Adidas to dissolve their business relationship with rapper. Back in October, West startled the public with an alarmingly antisemitic tweet that read “I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE…” West went on to say that it was impossible for him to be antisemitic and that the Jewish people oppressed anyone who did not agree with them. Adidas was not alone in severing ties with West, joined by the likes of Balenciaga, Peloton, and prominent talent agency, CAA.
If his horrific statements about Jewish people weren’t toxic enough to a workplace culture, Adidas announced last week that they would be launching an investigation into possible misconduct West displayed in the workplace. An open letter was sent by former employees of Yeezy Adidas’ executive board members and CEO claiming that “leaders of Adidas were aware of West’s problematic behavior’ but ‘turned their moral compass off,” when it came to that aforementioned behavior, implying that this is part of a larger pattern that has never been addressed. In addition to claims of West verbally abusing women on staff, it was also alleged that he would show pornographic videos to staff members during meetings that featured his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian—including pornographic videos featuring himself. The open letter also alleged that there were “disturbingly” sexualized work conditions that targeted women on Yeezy’s staff, along with bullying tactics that ensured West would get what he wanted.
In workplace environments where celebrities are not part of the fold, behavior like that of Kanye West would not be tolerated. His alleged behavior is not in any sort of gray area, meaning that if they did in fact occur and were reported to the staff, then Adidas was responsible for letting a toxic element rot their corporate culture for the sake of a big-name partnership. While it’s true that celebrity partnerships can bring a great deal of exposure and popularity for a company or product, the internal damage that can be done by toxic members of staff can cast a long shadow, both internally and externally. With toxic staff members comes increased turnover, disengagement from employees, and negative public relations should that toxicity ever come to light. Despite the millions to be made from partnerships with celebrities and other representatives of note, the damage that a toxic representative or partner can cost a corporation can take years to mend in the public eye.
If your corporation is having difficulties with a toxic employees, contact Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our corporate culture audit program at 317-951-1100, or visit us online at www.lauthinveststg.wpengine.com.