There but for the grace of God go I — avoid getting on this year-end list

A colleague — master beer blogger Rick Lyke,, sent this link to a year-end list of rascals, miscreants and idiots.

If you already know about it because you or your company is on it, well, wince with me. For the rest of us, it’s instructive of how a localized crisis transcends boundaries in our digital age. There’s nothing you can do about it except be forewarned and prepared.

I’ve not examined all the transgressions alleged or documented in the 100 cases recounted here. But there seems to be a lot of sexual harassment, racial and age discrimination cases. It’s a humiliating tale of lawsuits, judgments and resignations. The list forms a morality play on how many people — some like a handful of your employees — see few boundaries between the workplace and a bar, livingroom or fraternal hall.

There’s no escaping the conclusive concusive nature of these behaviors on the individuals who generated them. But the list includes more than a smattering of well-known companies and high-profile organizations, including Applebee’s, 3M, the New York City and Los Angeles police departments, the City of Sheboygan, the U.S. NavyPetSmart, the U.S. Senate, McDonald’s, the U.S. House of Representatives and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

How each of the 100 crisis-challenged institutions managed the cases would take an in-depth review. Experience suggests that most handled theirs well, but a few whiffed and paid for the strikeout with diminished reputation, loss of sales and business and overall institutional embarrassment.

The additional lesson here is that surely all the companies and organizations on the list trained their employees, taught them that sexual harassment and racial discrimination would not be tolerated, yet still suffered the hits associated with bad individual behaviors.

It’s impossible for any organization to avoid every personnel-based crisis, but it is relatively simple to conclude you will have one and prepare in advance to deal with it.

Your restaurant manager in Dubuque may be a scoundrel, but you can deflect the splatter of hot grease on the whole company’s reputation if you prepare and act rapidly and effectively. Only a plan established in advance in the calm of routine operations steers you clear of one employee’s character failings.

Take a minute and read through the list. It quite clearly should be titled, if you admit it to yourself, There, but for the grace of god, goes my company. 


About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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