Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s vice president for global public policy, sat behind his friend, Brett Kavanaugh, during the charged hearings to determine whether he would win support as the next Supreme Court justice. Because of his position at Facebook, employees questioned his loyalties and whether it was appropriate for him to be so visible during the judge’s testimony about whether he sexually assaulted a woman as a teenager.
His appearance was a “surprise” to employees, and hundreds wrote about their concerns on Facebook’s intranet site. One employee wrote, perhaps expressing the sentiment of Facebook’s liberal employees:
“Let’s assume for a minute that our VP of Policy understands how senate hearings work. His seat choice was intentional, knowing full well that journalists would identify every public figure appearing behind Kavanaugh. He knew that this would cause outrage internally, but he knew that he couldn’t get fired for it. This was a protest against our culture, and a slap in the face to his fellow employees.”
Kaplan defended participating, referring to their 20-year friendship, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he didn’t violate any company policies by attending, although he did say he would not have made the same decision. Employees wanted to hear from COO Sheryl Sanberg about Ford’s accusations, and she was not forthcoming, according to a Times article. But she did comment on Kaplan’s attendance:
“As a woman and someone who cares so deeply about how women are treated, the Kavanaugh issue is deeply upsetting to me. I’ve talked to Joel about why I think it was a mistake for him to attend given his role in the company.”
Read additional Facebook messages in the Times article. How would you summarize employees’ concerns?
What’s your view of Kaplan’s attendance? Consider the “optics” in addition to company policy.
Some might say that Kaplan was being authentic by sitting behind his friend. Do you agree with this view? Why or why not?
Which character dimensions are illustrated by this story?