Starbucks: Providing the perfect corporate culture

By: Morgan Bittengle


Being an avid coffee drinker, and more specifically a Starbucks fan I felt it was only fitting to do the original case study we were assigned on Starbucks and their corporate culture. This case study will provide details on how the company works and how they treat their employees and customers, which in the end, leads to the success and popularity of the company itself.

Starbucks is one of the most popular, well-liked companies in the world. They give people their early morning boost of energy and also their afternoon pick-me-ups. They  were founded in 1971 in Seattle, Washington, and incorporated on November 4, 1985 to become the publicly traded Starbucks Corporation. It is ranked among Forbes’ top-500 world’s biggest public companies. As of 2015, Starbucks’ profit was $2.5 billion and it had a market value of $70.9 billion. Their mission statement shows just how they are not only about coffee, but also about the soul of the human and how they can and will be the best person they can be. “To inspire and nurture the human spirit- one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time” ( The way in which employees of Starbucks treat each other and act in the cafes are a very good representations of how Starbucks as a whole want their customers to be treated. The environment Starbucks provides customers with will also carry on to the companies goals for the future. The next thing that I will discuss in this case study will be carrying on into theories that are implemented within the company culture.


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Communication Accommodation Theory is one that fits well with Starbucks and their culture. The employees consistently try to tend to the needs of the customers, which means they change the way they speak or act to benefit them. An example of this is when one particular Starbucks location tended to the needs of deaf or hearing impaired customers. Starbucks hired people who could read sign language to communicate with the customers enabling them to order for themselves, leaving them feeling humbled and proud they could do this in a society that doesn’t fluently use sign language. That is just one of the many examples of how Starbucks accommodates to their customers through communication, which can be verbal or nonverbal.

Another way communication accommodation theory is used throughout the Starbucks culture is through language in general. Since there are Starbucks locations all over the world, the company realizes that and tends to the communication barrier. For example, hiring employees in high tourist areas that may speak multiple languages or even may just be good at interpreting what is being said is something they strive for.

Acquired Needs theory, though, people are motivated to work to acquire status that is deemed important by society. Starbucks employees main goals are to satisfy the needs/wants of the customers. In the workplace, they strive to expand on the companies brand development and globally.

Theory of linguistic relativity “assumes that the structure of language we use influences the way we perceive the environment” (Organizational Communication). This is also known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. In regards to Starbucks and their corporate culture, this is very relative because the way in which employees speak to each other and customers determines how someones experience at the cafe will go. It shows a lot about the company itself when employees speak mindfully, honestly and positively.

The main goal of Starbucks is to make sure that the needs of the consumer are met. In order to do this though, language is very important and key to their success. It starts within the company, too. When managers and others who are high up are discussing what needs to be done, things are relayed in a manner where it is comfortable and easy to see that the manager or whoever it is wants the employee to feel safe and comforted in their workplace.

Since language is such a prominent aspect in a successful company, the theory of linguistic relativity is relayed into Starbucks company as a whole very often. Whether it’s listening to what customers enjoy and what they don’t, or if it’s getting out in the public and asking for suggestions on how to provide a more beneficial coffee drinking environment, they get out there and do these things.

Critical Analysis

Starbucks is a company that is so well known by not just one area of people. It is a company that gets business all over the world. One key aspect to the culture of Starbucks that they take pride in is that they are very diverse. “Our partners are diverse not only in gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religion and age, but also in cultural backgrounds, life experiences, thoughts and ideas”. Taylor Yukawa, a deaf financial analyst, at Starbucks in Seattle, Washington shares what his experience with Starbucks has been like and how they do not judge or discriminate because of his disability. Taylor is a great representation and example of how Starbucks is a diverse company that focuses more on the outcome rather than being picky on who does the work that gets to the outcome.

As mentioned earlier, there are Starbucks all over the world. In fact, there are 24, 395 retail locations. Starbucks “main markets” are the Americas (including Canada, Latin America, and the US), China and Asia Pacific, and Middle East and Africa. In the United States specifically, California is the state with the most Starbucks stores, with 1,863 locations. Having so many stores all around the world can most likely get pretty hectic at times, so I think it shows a lot about the company itself and how they are able to control and bring in customers consistently on a daily basis.

Starbucks has many values, as does any successful company, but the four main values that they have are:

1.Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.

2. Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.

3.Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.

4.Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.

These values provide an insight to the outside world of the Starbucks company as to what they truly believe in and why they do the things they do. They do not focus solely on the customer but they place high importance on the employees as well. This speaks volumes for a company of the size of Starbucks.

In a recent article comparing the difference in corporate cultures between Starbucks and Amazon, I was amazed at what I read. Amazon places high importance on the customer, which is great, but neglects the need and wants of the employees making it a hostile and unenjoyable workplace. Starbucks, on the other hand, placed the two (customers and employees satisfaction) on the same level. Amazon explains what customers need to do for the company for it to be successful and their mission statement where Starbucks leaves it short, sweet and to the point. This goes to show that less is truly more. What needs to be done for the highest rate of satisfaction doesn’t mean neglecting your employees.

Ethical standards are high in the company because they feel so strongly about employee and customer satisfaction. Being able to honestly say that the company you work for cares about others and wants the highest satisfaction rate, not just the highest income is very admirable.

“We are performance driven , through the lens of humanity”. This is a quote from the Starbucks mission statement page and I think it sums up their company perfectly. Basically, what it is saying is that the company works for and does what needs to be done to satisfy the needs of others in the world. Starbucks looks at the outside world and sees what they need to do and listens to the wants of those around.

Another example as to how Starbucks looks out for their employees just as much as their customers, is all the benefits there are for working for the company. Starbucks offers full tuition reimbursement through the college achievement plan. They also offer health care benefits for part-time and full-time employees, including same sex and domestic partner benefits.


All in all, Starbucks is a wonderful company to work for or even just give your business to. They show admirable qualities in what needs to be done for the satisfaction of not just the customers but also their employees, which then keeps them around longer. It also encourages them to WANT to do more for their company on their own. Things such as finding out what can be done better, what customers like best, how they view messages most, etc.

As previously mentioned, Amazon and Starbucks were compared in their corporate culture and it was a night and day difference. Amazons CEO, Jeff Bezos, could learn a lot about employee success and how to keep them going and active in the company from Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz. Doing little things such as positive talk, encouragement, reiteration on how important individuals are to the company goes a long way, and that is just one of the many reasons why Starbucks is so successful in that department. It is also where Amazon is very unsuccessful, so it shows a large difference in the two companies.

So, whether you’re looking for a new place of employment or just for a nice cup-o-joe, Starbucks is your place to go. You will not be let down or disappointed.


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