Cancel Culture: Business Risks and Responses

Cancel culture is a seemingly-recent worldwide phenomenon that strikes fear in the hearts of business leaders. But is it really anything new? And is it truly something that executives should be afraid of?

Understanding the ins and outs of cancel culture, and how leaders should respond to it is an imperative step in positively contributing to companies, and societies, as a whole. 

Cancel Culture: Has It Always Been an Issue?

Cancel culture happens when a group withdraws support for a company or individual based on their beliefs or actions. The group doing the canceling is usually quite vocal throughout the process, as they see this as a means to bring about change in society.

Cancel culture isn’t anything new, but it has gained different terminology and the ability to spread like wildfire due to social media and other modern occurrences.


Why Does Cancel Culture Seem So Prominent Today?

In the past, people may have referred to this concept as “calling someone out” for doing something wrong. For example, perhaps a politician was censured for discriminatory behavior. Though their actions were unacceptable, being called out didn’t influence every part of the person’s life or the goings-on of a business.

The phrase “cancel culture” started being used in the late 2010s and gained popularity in the early 2020s. It is now part of the mainstream lexicon and is central to public debates across culture, media, and politics.

Cancel culture as a term often has negative connotations, and some people try to frame the ideas at its basis with the more positive term “call-out culture.”

Why has the idea of cancel culture has gained so much momentum? 


The Influence of Social Media

The difference between the past of calling someone out for doing or saying something wrong and the modern idea of cancel culture is social media and the freedom it gives to individuals to speak out on all topics. This isn’t going away and so we should learn to embrace this

Because of social media, every person has an avenue to speak on any topic. Everything is on public display, leading people to call for change when they see something they don’t like or view as an injustice.


The Era of COVID and the Black Lives Matter Movement

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic the world endured heightened the impact of social media on people’s everyday lives. Because of the lockdown, people were stuck in their homes with a lot of extra time to spend on the internet. Many of us craved online interaction as a way of staying connected with the rest of the world.

The Black Lives Matter movement, which began in 2013, grew as people continued to witness acts of violence against Black people. Interest in social activism rose steadily and developed into the idea of cancel culture that many are familiar with today.


Why Business Leaders Are Afraid of Cancel Culture

Cancel culture has become a feared and negative thing for executives. When it happens, it may seem like this is the end of everything for the person or company being canceled. 

So what is the specific fear?

  • Loss of a job?
  • Alienation within the company?
  • Not being able to continue one’s career?


It’s all of that and more. Business leaders are only human and it’s natural to have these kinds of thoughts.

There have been very public cases of people being canceled. If a person or business has done something wrong, they need to address it and make it right.

Unfortunately, even when actions have been addressed and corrected, the repercussions of today’s society don’t end there. They may find they are being bullied and persecuted in every aspect of their lives. 

It’s a negative side of cancel culture, but there can be that mob mentality where people work themselves into a frenzy over an issue.


Why Business Leaders Should Be Willing To Embrace Cancel Culture

Despite the negativity surrounding cancel culture, it’s ultimately one way to be inclusive and the way many people feel they can implement real change.

To truly be inclusive, leaders need to address issues people are concerned about. Business leaders can’t shy away from negativity just because there’s fear surrounding it. Instead, leaders must make sure they are providing the right environments for positive growth in their companies.

People don’t want to put themselves in a position where they might get tricked or tripped up — but they can’t let that fear hold them back. 

Leaders will have to armor themselves and find a way to say, “I understand that this might happen to me, but I’m willing to push through to make my company, team, employees, and self better.”

Business leaders must accept that this is the new reality of the world.  By viewing cancel culture in a more positive light, it can make leaders stronger. Doing so can help build a conscience of how topics that have never been previously addressed are handled. 

There’s a huge opportunity for leaders to be vulnerable, by expressing to their team that they may mess up and when they do, they want their teams to help them get better. Leaders need to express that their employees are valuable assets in teaching and showing leaders how to be better by showing their employees that they are willing to learn.


What Is the Best Way To Deal With Today’s Cancel Culture in Business?

Leaders shouldn’t debate whether cancel culture exists. They need to accept that this is the current environment they’re in. 

Most businesses aren’t going to face nationwide or worldwide cancellation, but having these tools can help them deal with cancel culture on a smaller scale as well.


Understand the Risks and Communicate With Employees

Leaders can’t know everything — so they need to be okay with questioning what they are there to do. Do they have the right tools and resources for team members? Are they representing what their company is asking of employees? Are they consistently learning from leaders that surround them?

Leaders should focus on what they do for their business, employees, and clientele. 

Listening to employees is important, although not all issues should be addressed in the workplace. Leaders should be open and do their best at deciphering what concerns should be addressed in the workplace.


Have a Plan for Social Media Backlash

Social media can take information delivery and communication to extremes. Business leaders need to be careful about this.

What leaders can’t do is ignore the backlash. The negativity following a misstep can take over social media and even cross over into mainstream media if enough noise is made about it.

If a company is in crisis because of cancellation, leaders should publicly address the issue as soon as possible. This will allow them to own up to their mistakes and possibly diffuse the situation before it truly blows up.


Be Willing and Ready To Implement Change

The big picture isn’t about cancel culture. It’s more about the journey of the company. 

Leaders should be asking:

  • Who they are
  • What their destination is
  • What environment they are creating


Then leaders should recruit, train, and hire with those answers in mind.

This allows employers to clearly see that they’re building an appropriate business culture and attracting the right people. 

If leaders are facing an environment where they are being or have been canceled, they should seek out those who have experienced this and learn from them. Leaders can’t hide in the shadows and wait for the storm to pass. They must surround themselves with the people and resources to move forward through the experience.  


K. Parkin Consultancy Wants To Help Leaders Navigate the Intricacies of Being an Executive in the Modern Business World

When leaders need help navigating the business world — whether it be about cancel culture or other executive concerns — it’s best to find someone who has already walked that road to help. K. Parking Consultancy services focus on:

  • Women in leadership
  • Navigating the C-Suite; and
  • Strategic excellence


Giving business leaders the tools they need to rise with vigor and truly take the leadership role they were meant to have. Contact us today.