Carefully Crafted on April 28

Social Pressure Forces Corporate Action. Is Better Behavior Next?

Supposedly, things happen in threes. This weekend, as the sports world shifted attention to the appalling, racist comments from LA Clippers owner, it marked the third time in the past couple weeks when social media played a key role in “outing” unacceptable behavior from a high-profile corporate leaders. Let’s review:

  1. Mozilla Firefox’s co-founder was forced to resign as CEO after becoming engulfed in controversy stemming from a $1,000 donation supporting the ballot measure to ban gay marriage. The controversy heated up after OKCupid delivered a message to users trying to access the site via Firefox that said, “Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.” From there, the outrage spread thanks in part to social channels.
  2. According to Fortune, intense backlash led to the firing of RadiumOne’s CEO. Quick background: “Last August, the 31 year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur Gurbaksh “G” Chahal was arrested and charged with hitting and kicking his girlfriend 117 times over a 30-minute period. The incident was allegedly caught on film, via some sort of home surveillance system.” The video wasn’t admissible in court, so instead of being charged and convicted of felonies, the CEO got off with a couple misdemeanors. Social backlash ensued and the tech press started calling on the board to take action. A week after the guilty conviction, the board removed the CEO from his position.
  3. The Clippers owner’s racist rant — which began after his girlfriend posted a photo of herself with Magic Johnson — was caught on tape and leaked to TMZ. This situation is still unfolding, but suffice it to say, thanks to social media and the speed at which information spreads, this incident wasn’t going to go away quietly (unlike some of his other past transgressions, which barely registered on the public’s radar). Clippers players staged a silent, but powerful, protest before Sunday’s game, and sponsors are already reconsidering their relationship with the NBA team.

In summary: To varying degrees, pressure applied via social media has forced the resignation of one CEO and the firing of another. In the third situation, sponsors are jumping ship and there are rumors that the NBA owners may try to force the Clippers owner to sell the team.

This “no secrets” approach to information sharing is the latest evidence of the blurring the personal and professional lines. All three of these examples stem from a person’s individual actions and viewpoints, yet the professional impact is undeniable. This could yield far-reaching impacts — from HR and PR … to management training and personal accountability — that none of us fully understand just yet.

Pre-social media, it was much easier for a company to hide missteps — even major ones — from the public. While there is undoubtedly an ugly side to social media, so much good comes from our ability to communicate with nearly anyone, anytime, anywhere.

As someone who supports gay marriage, previously facilitated support groups for domestic violence survivors, and doesn’t believe in racial discrimination, all three situations blow my mind. Consequently, I’m glad social media is outing people and forcing companies to be accountable for their leaders’ behaviors.

What do you think? Is it good or bad that social media is outing beliefs and actions formerly deemed private?


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