Late last Thursday night (10/22), roughly 10 million Expensify users received an email from CEO David Barrett insisting that “anything less than a vote for Biden is a vote against democracy,” along with a list of reasons why people should not support the Trump administration.
The San Francisco-based expense management system drew immediate criticism, with people claiming it was a misuse of the mass customer data the company possesses and some going as far as to call the email political propaganda.
Personally, I applaud any individual citizen’s ability and desire to be politically active, whether it be in-person or disseminated through digital media. However, when a company starts sending potentially inflammatory, partisan messaging directly to their customer base using contact information that organizations and individuals have shared with them in good faith, you cross into an understandably grey area.
The 10 million people that received that email weren’t all business owners, the distribution list included employees opted-in to the service by their employer, increasing the likelihood that some people receiving the message felt like they were being accosted with partisan politics from a theoretically neutral workforce platform. The most likely outcome is that it will offend a great deal of people and persuade almost no one.
In addition to potentially alienating between 30-50% of their customer base, there has to be consideration for Expensify employees as well. How are they supposed to feel about their organization’s leader denouncing their political beliefs in no uncertain terms? Are they still a welcome, valued addition to the company’s culture?
While individuals should absolutely have freedom of expression, using a company’s platform to speak on behalf of the entire organization is generally frowned upon. Barrett obviously believes that the success of his private company relies on the outcome of this election and is willing to speak out to support his beliefs, time will tell if this move ends up potentially doing more damage in the long run.