Jeff Bezos’s Medium Post

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News is swirling about Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s long Medium post accusing the National Enquirer of “extortion and blackmail” for pictures of him and a woman other than his wife. Bezos claims that Chairman and CEO David Pecker acts of behalf of President Trump to discredit key people, and he cites an immunity deal between the Enquirer and the justice department for these actions. President Trump has openly criticized Amazon for not paying enough taxes.

A popular story about the piece is how Bezos used the word “complexifier”:

“My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy.”

A Slate article explores whether it’s a real word, and it is not in standard English. The “investigation” concludes that the word “appears most at home in the canon of self-help business gobbledygook.” As expected, memes, like the one here, are popular.

Bezos’s post is interesting from a business writing and character perspective if nothing more.

Discussion:

  • Analyze Bezos’s post: who are the primary and secondary audiences, and what are his communication objectives? How is it organized? What is the tone?

  • To what extent does Bezos meet his communication objectives?

  • Overall, what’s your view of his approach to address the situation with this post?

  • Which leadership character dimensions does Bezos demonstrate?

Gillette Ad Gets Mixed Reviews

Gillette took a risk with its new ad campaign. Spinning its 30-year slogan, “The Best a Man Can Get,” the company introduced, “The Best a Man Can Be.” A new video references sexual harassment, challenges the expression “boys will be boys,” and encourages men to “hold other men accountable.”

Gillette explains the rationale in a press release. In addition, the URL thebestamancanbe.org redirects to https://gillette.com/en-us/the-best-men-can-be, where the company explains the campaign:

Thirty years ago, we launched our The Best A Man Can Get tagline.

Since then, it has been an aspirational statement, reflecting standards that many men strive to achieve.

But turn on the news today and it’s easy to believe that men are not at their best. Many find themselves at a crossroads, caught between the past and a new era of masculinity. While it is clear that changes are needed, where and how we can start to effect that change is less obvious for many. And when the changes needed seem so monumental, it can feel daunting to begin. So, let’s do it together.

It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.

From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.

As part of The Best Men Can Be campaign, Gillette is committing to donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profit organizations executing programs in the United States designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation.

Our tagline needs to continue to inspire us all to be better every day, and to help create a new standard for boys to admire and for men to achieve… Because the boys of today are the men of tomorrow.

We’ve all got work to do. And it starts today.

Not everyone appreciates the new campaign. The YouTube video received 582,000 likes and 1 million dislikes. Some feel that the video unfairly accuses all men of not doing better.

A Gillette spokesperson said the campaign “is much more than a video—it is a commitment to spark and contribute to positive change through our voice as an advertiser and our actions as a brand and a company.” Analysts say the current boycotts probably won’t last long and will have little bottom-line effect on the company.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view of the video? Do you appreciate the message, find it offensive, or something else?

  • What else, if anything, should the company say in response to the controversy?

  • Which leadership character dimensions are illustrated by this story?

Report on Larry Nassar

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A new report on the former Olympics coach and doctor, Larry Nassar, blames officials at Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympics Committee (USOC), and USA Gymnastics for allowing his abuse of hundreds of girls over decades. The investigators concluded, “Numerous institutions and individuals enabled his abuse and failed to stop him.”

In some cases when officials learned of an abuse allegation against Nassar, they waited weeks or months to report to; in other cases, officials reported claims but didn’t do enough to follow up. In still other cases, officials did nothing at all.

Nassar was finally convicted and sentenced to what will be life in prison. With the report results, some hope the USOC will now be investigated.

The report aligns with an NPR podcast, Believed, tracing claims against Nassar and his medical defense, which was accepted by too many for too long.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • How do you think the abuse continued for so long? If you listen to the podcast Believed, you’ll hear Nassar’s defense during police interviews.

  • Analyze the report. What business communication principles are followed, and in what ways could the report be improved?

Cheesecake's Failed Promotion

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To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Cheesecake Factory offered free cheesecake delivery, but stores ran out and deliveries were slow.

Through the app DoorDash, customers ordered a free slice of the cake. The company said 40,000 slices were available, and people who didn’t get their promised piece got angry. Drivers were put in uncomfortable positions, sometimes waiting hours for orders to be ready for delivery. A flight between drivers broke out in Arlington, VA, and one got arrested.

The company responded by expressing gratitude for the tremendous interest and by complimenting themselves for delivering 60,000 slides—but no apology came. DoorDash tweeted, “A huge shoutout to all of the hardworking Dashers who made this exciting day possible! You’re the real MVPs.” A Cheesecake Factory spokesperson said, “Our Day of 40,000 Slices promotion had such a tremendous response from our guests that we extended it and delivered more than 60,000 complimentary slices. We were truly humbled by the popularity of the offer and by how quickly our fans responded as all of the 60,000 complimentary slices were ordered within an hour of the promotion's start time."

Discussion:

  • How could Cheesecake Factory have done a better job planning the promotion?

  • Should the company response be different? Do you think the leaders should apologize? Why or why not? If so, what would be an appropriate apology?



Trump Undocumented Workers Speak Out

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Employees of Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, say they are undocumented in the U.S. and express disappointment at the president’s comments about immigrants. For five years, Victorina Morales has worked at the property, and her responsibilities sometimes include providing housekeeping services for the president’s private quarters.

Although the president may not have known about their status, Morales and a former employee say several within the housekeeping, maintenance, and landscaping crews don’t have papers to work legally in the U.S.

Morales said her status is known at the club, and she was hurt when she heard the president comparing recent immigrants to criminals:

“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money. We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.”

During the presidential campaign, President Trump said of his businesses, “We didn’t have one illegal immigrant on the job.”

Image source.

Discussion:

  • What risks does Morales take by speaking out? Why might she forge ahead and not be deterred by those risks?

  • How is this a potential issue of integrity for President Trump?

  • Should President Trump be held accountable for undocumented workers on his properties? Why or why not?

One Way to Increase Understanding

Wanting a break from technology, singer and songwriter Gabriel Kahane traveled the United States by train, meeting people and hearing their stories. Right after the 2016 presidential election, Kahane rode Amtrak trains for almost 9,000 miles to understand how people across the country think and feel.

Kahane describes his strategy for what he calls “radical empathy”:

I set some ground rules for myself when I was on the train. One of the things that I was really interested in doing wasn't arguing with people. And I think that that is sort of one of the fundamental problems that we face right now, is this idea we all sort of have contempt for the other side.

We say, well, I just can't engage with that person. And there were some cases where I failed, and I would then go back to my sleeper car and write in my journal: You argued. You said you weren't going to do that.

Kahane challenges how much importance we place on “efficiency.” He says that downtime gives us space to reflect about shared, complex problems: “I think there's a real consequence to not having that space to just sit silently and think, what is it to be in this other person's body.”

Image source.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view of “radical empathy,” as Kahane describes it? What is the value, and what are the downsides of his approach?

  • What character dimensions does Kahane illustrate in this story?

Google Employees Protest Sexual Harassment

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Thousands of employees walked out of more than 20 Google offices around the world on Thursday to protest how the company handled sexual harassment charges. Employees in California, Berlin, Dublin, London, Singapore, Tokyo, Zurich, and other locations organized under the group, “Google Walkout For Real Change‏.”

The reaction came after a New York Times article revealed several senior-level managers left the company, quietly, because of sexual harassment. Some were given large financial payouts.

In addition to a more transparent process, employees are asking for an end to pay equity and forced arbitration, which requires employees to settle cases within the company and denies them the right to sue.

In response to the walkouts, CEO Sundar Pichai said, “Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward. We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”

Image source.

Discussion:

  • How do you view the walkouts: a waste of time, overstepping, a productive way to protest, or something else? Respond to the same question for their list of demands.

  • What, if any, impact do you think the walkouts will have on company practices? Googlers did encourage the company’s decision to end an artificial intelligence contract with the Defense Department.

  • What leadership character dimensions are illustrated by the situation?

Reversal at Maryland

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The University of Maryland has reversed its position on keeping football coach DJ Durkin. At first, Durkin was reinstated after a damning report about player abuse which resulted in the death of a student, Jordan McNair. Critics say the University’s Board of Regents overstepped in disallowing Loh to terminate the coach.

Now, pressure from students, players, the McNair family, and politicians left the University with no choice but to fire Coach Durkin. In a letter, President Loh explained the decision, including his previous concerns about Durkin’s return.

McNair’s father made a statement, including a message to President Loh when asked:

“The same thing I’ve always said to Dr. Loh. I’ve always commended Dr. Loh for having a level of integrity and doing the right thing even since he first initially came to the hospital, and secondly, when he came to us as a family to apologize and to take full moral and legal responsible for the tragic events that happened.”

In the meantime, Maryland players were involved in an altercation. It seems as though this situation has divided the team as well.

UPDATE: James T. Brady, chairman of the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, resigned last week, and President Loh is winning back his power. A Chronicle article notes that Loh won the “battle waged in the court of public opinion,” and whether he will leave the University as planned is now unclear. In a statement, Brady explained his decision and, using the word “proud” three times, cites board accomplishments during his tenure.

Discussion:

  • How is this situation an issue of integrity?

  • The regents had planned to terminate President Loh. Should they reverse this position too?

  • What should the University do now to repair its image?

  • We have heard nothing that I found from the regents (except their confidence in Coach Durkin). Should they communicate something now? What could they say that could help instead of hurt the situation?

Marriott Labor Strikes

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More than 8,000 Marriott employees are going on strike to fight for higher wages and more input into decisions that affect them. Represented by the union Unite Here, workers represent 23 hotels across the country, and the number may grow.

A Marriott International spokesperson told Skift:

“We are disappointed that Unite Here has chosen to resort to a strike at this time. During the strike our hotels are open, and we stand ready to provide excellent service to our guests. We continue to bargain in good faith for a fair contract. While we respect our associates’ rights to participate in this work stoppage, we also will welcome any associate who chooses to continue to work.”

The GM of a Westin property told guests they would put their sustainability program “in effect for all guests for the duration of the work stoppage. Your room will be cleaned every third day of your stay, and any additional cleaning services you would like are available on request.”

According to the article and online reviews, guests are noticing. As one wrote, “The normal services you associate with a hotel were severely reduced, along with the attention provided with a RC [Ritz-Carlton] stay, were no longer available.”

Unite Here is negotiating with Marriott for three improvements:

(1) Wages high enough so that workers do not have to work multiple jobs to earn a living wage; (2) a voice in determining how much automation and what kind of automation makes its way into the hotel industry; and (3) better measures for workplace safety.

Marriott image source. Striker image source.

Discussion:

  • If successful, the strike could inspire more hospitality workers to join the union. Is that a good result? Why or why not?

  • What’s your view of the employees’ requests: not enough, reasonable, outrageous, or something else?

  • What leadership character dimensions are demonstrated or not demonstrated by this situation?

Woman Fired for Racial Profiling

A woman refused to let a black man into her apartment, and she was subsequently fired from her job. Hilary Mueller is shown on video, taken by D'Arreion Toles, asking to see his key fob and questioning who Toles was going to visit in the building. Toles eventually moved past Mueller, who followed him to his apartment door.

When the video was posted, it attracted more than 5 million views. Toles included the captions, "to be a black man in America" and "this is America in 2018." Complicating matters, Mueller called the police after the incident. Also, Mueller’s husband posted a video condemning her behavior. They have been separated for more than a year.

Mueller’s employer, real estate firm Tribeca-STL, also saw the video and terminated her employment. An ABC report includes a statement from the firm:

"The Tribeca-STL family is a minority-owned company that consists of employees and residents from many racial backgrounds. We are proud of this fact and do not and never will stand for racism or racial profiling at our company."

As of this writing, both the company website and its Twitter feed are unavailable.

Discussion:

  • Explain how this incident is an example of racial profiling.

  • Do you agree with the firm’s decision to fire Mueller? Why or why not?

  • In what ways did Mueller demonstrate and fail to demonstrate integrity and humility?

Video: "The Columnists on Risk"

The Wall Street Journal has gathered ideas from artists, celebrities, and business people on taking risks. Risk-taking is essential to address situations that conflict with your values, to have difficult conversations, to innovate, and to advance your career.

To demonstrate courage, we must assess risks. in his book, Moral Courage, Rushworth Kidder identifies three questions to ask ourselves when faced with a decision that requires courage. First, we must be willing to face ambiguity and confusion. Situations that require courage are rarely straightforward. Can we handle conflicting, complex points of view without having one “right” answer? Second, are we willing to face exposure? By taking action, we make ourselves vulnerable. Are we ready for the leadership role that’s required? Third, can we accept the loss? We may lose our reputation, our relationships, or our job.

Discussion:

  • How would you describe your risk tolerance?

  • To which of the ideas shared in the video do you most and least relate?

  • Some people in the video describe physical risks. What’s the difference between physical and moral courage?

  • How do your own ideas about risk affect your work and your employment choices?

Are U.S. Campuses Coddling Students?

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A new book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, explores the impact of political discourse on U.S. college campuses. The book is an expansion of an Atlantic article in which Jonathan Haidt, one of the book authors, disputed “trigger warnings” and other anxiety-avoiding tactics.

The authors are clear that harassment and discrimination are wrong, and that students who experience them should report the incidents. But, according to a Bloomberg article, we may lose the ability to communicate with each other:

“They worry about the What worries him is the looseness of the term ‘bias’ and the idea that students are urged not to work out their concern with the alleged perpetrator but to report it directly to the authorities.”

Also concerning the authors is the high percentage of liberal faculty members. A recent study shows that 39% of the most elite liberal arts schools have no Republican professors. The Bloomberg writer notes the possible negative effect:

"Critics argue that the atmosphere of liberal orthodoxy increases the risk that graduates will enter the workforce without knowing how to confront political viewpoints different from their own.”

Cover image source.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view? Are we coddling students, or do they need more protection and “safe spaces”?

  • How would you describe the differences among discrimination, harassment, and bias?

  • How might the issue of protecting people from bias contribute to sexual harassment in the workplace? How can we help people sort out problems at an interpersonal level?

Nike Addresses Kaepernick on Earnings Call

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On a quarterly earnings call, Nike CEO Mark Parker addressed head on the new ad campaign with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Following strong first-quarter earnings and revenue growth, Parker expressed confidence in Nike’s sponsorship agreement, particularly related to social media engagement:

“How we look at it is how do we connect and engage in a way that’s relevant and inspiring to the consumers that we’re here to serve. Our brand strength ... is a key dimension that contributes to the ongoing momentum that we’re building across the Nike portfolio.”

About an ad campaign that also features athletes Serena Williams and Lebron James, Parker said,

“These are actually very inspiring athletes, and again we feel like that campaign has delivered on that message in a way that’s really connected with people around the world.”

But the stock did fall in after-hours trading after the earnings report. Analysts say investors expected more than 10% revenue growth, and they note this is the first quarter since a sexual harassment scandal hit the company.

Stock image source.

Discussion:

  • The company executives tout the campaign results on social media. How much do these results matter compared to the earnings report?

  • Maybe this is another example of how quarterly reports aren’t the best measure of company performance. Should we be looking longer term? Why or why not?

Students Protest Required Presentations

Middle and high school students want to ban in-class presentations because some students experience speech anxiety. These students argue that speeches put undue pressure on teens, particularly those with anxiety disorders. One student said, “Nobody should be forced to do something that makes them uncomfortable.” This is quite a statement.

I agree that students with severe anxiety may be at risk and certainly need additional support. But most people can easily overcome speech anxiety. A couple of years ago, I developed a web-based tool with strategies to use before, during, and after a speech:

URL: speaking.amynewman.com
User: email
Password: Statler65

Employers will not likely tolerate employees who aren’t comfortable presenting in front of others. School is the time to practice and develop these skills.

Discussion:

  • What’s your experience with giving speeches in middle and high school?

  • What have you done in your life to feel more comfortable giving presentations?

  • What’s your view of the students’ position?

Accusation and Defense of Brett Kavanaugh

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On the final days of interviews with Brett Kavanaugh to become a Supreme Court Justice, a woman has accused him of sexual assault when they were teenagers, more than 30 years ago. Professor Christine Blasey Ford wanted to stay anonymous, but she is now known as the one who claims Kavanaugh assaulted her at a Georgetown Preparatory School party when she was 15 and Kavanaugh was 17. She revealed her allegation in a letter to her congressman. Dr. Blasey believes that she would have been raped if Kavanaugh weren’t drunk. Both will testify on Monday.

For leadership and business communication students, let’s look at the arguments on both sides. Here is some of the evidence presented so far:

  • Twenty-four women who attended private school with Dr. Blasey supported her in a signed letter “to attest to her honesty, integrity, and intelligence.” (For some letter-writing history, read the defense of Professor Avital Ronell and the subsequent explanation.)

  • Dr. Blasey passed a polygraph test, but critics say the test is imperfect for proving truthfulness.

  • Although Dr. Blasey doesn’t remember some details (for example, whose house they were at), trauma experts say this is typical for people who experience such a trauma.

  • Kavanaugh denies the incident: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

  • Mark Judge, Kavanaugh’s roommate at the time, said, “I have no memory of this alleged incident." Dr. Blasey claims he was in the room during the incident. Judge also said, "It's just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way.” He also said they were raised in Catholic homes that didn’t tolerate such behavior and that Kavanaugh was “brilliant” and not “into anything crazy or illegal.” Judge wrote a book, Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk, about his time at Georgetown Prep.

  • Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook has become public and is “raising eyebrows,” as MSNBC and CNN both report. The yearbook includes captions such as “Do these guys beat their wives?” and “100 kegs or bust,” indicating a party culture. Mark Judge’s yearbook page, shown here, includes a quote: “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.”

The FBI and/or congressional investigation is a nearly impossible task. Does this evidence help?

Cover image source. Yearbook image source.

Discussion:

  • Which of these evidence points do you consider most and lease relevant to the question of whether Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Dr. Blasey?

  • What biases might you bring to the analysis? Think about your own assumptions and how they might affect your interpretation.

  • What advice would you give to members of Senate Judiciary Committee as they decide what happened and, ultimately, whether Kavanaugh should be elected to the highest court position.

Disneyland Employees Speak Out

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Disney employees are on screen in a New York Times op-ed video, "I Work at the Happiest Place on Earth. Why Can’t I Pay My Rent?" A 30-year concierge and a cosmetologist are featured more prominently. One is currently living in her car, and another says, tearfully, that she has spent time in her car. Both say they love their jobs, but along with 75% of Disneyland employees, they can't afford to pay "basic expenses every month." Data comes from a questionnaire and report, "Working for the Mouse."

The argument is for Disney to pay a living wage, and the call is for citizens to vote for an Anaheim proposal that affects Disneyland employees and some local hotel workers. In the video, one claim is that real wages have declined because of inflation—what $15 per hour bought seven years ago isn't the same today.

Business leaders who are fighting the measure say that the increase would hurt jobs. One local Chamber of Commerce member argued, "We estimate 3-4,000 jobs lost over next year or two by companies having to absorb this new increased cost. They're going to reduce hours and reduce jobs."

Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is also featured in the video. He is proposing a bill he calls "Stop BEZOS" to tax Amazon and other large companies for public assistance received by their employees. The idea is for companies with 500 or more employees to pay the government back for support paid to their employees who cannot survive on earned wages.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • How well does the video make the case for higher wages? Which are logical and which are emotional appeals? What evidence is presented?
  • Assess the credibility of the questionnaire and report, "Working for the Mouse." From your assessment, what makes the report both credible and questionable? In what ways does the report reflect business communication standards, and in what ways does it fall short?
  • Research the impact of raising wages on industry, for example, this Cornell report. What's your view of this argument? It's a complicated question because of different industries, locations, labor supply, rates, etc.
  • In what ways do the employees featured in the video demonstrate courage? What risks did they take in appearing on screen?

Nike Takes a Chance on Kaepernick

Former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick will be the new celebrity face of Nike's "Just Do It" campaign. Kaepernick was the center of controversy when players were both complimented and criticized for "taking a knee" to protest racism and promote social justice.

Nike and Kaepernick already had a sponsorship deal, but this new contract extends it. The deal may be "awkward," to use The New York Times's phrase, because the NFL has not been able to stop player protests, to the dismay of President Trump and others.

Also, Kaepernick hasn't played in the league since 2016 and has an active grievance, accusing the league of conspiring to prevent him from playing.

But neither Nike nor Kaepernick are shying away from the message. The first ad shows Kaepernick with the caption, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."

As part of the deal, Nike will contribute to "Know Your Rights," Kaepernick's foundation to "fight oppression of all kinds globally, through education and social activism.

Discussion:

  • What risks is Nike taking with this contract? Do you believe the campaign will be well received, divisive, or something else?

  • Nike didn't respond to The New York Times for comment about the story. Should the company include a comment or make a statement? Why or why not?

  • What leadership character dimensions are illustrated by this story?

Facebook Memo from Conservative Employees

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Reminiscent of last year's Google memo titled "Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber," a group of politically conservative employees at Facebook wrote a memo titled "We Have a Problem With Political Diversity." The message is similar: employees who hold conservative views do not feel included at the company.

The memo emphasizes two major points:

  • "We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views."
  • "We do this so consistently that employees are afraid to say anything when they disagree with what’s around them politically."

The writer includes some evidence, and business communication students may want more. The end of the memo, which is much shorter and less divisive than Google's, includes a call to action: for interested employees to join a Facebook group, now showing 1422 members.

Discussion:

  • Assess the memo for organization. Are the headings clear and parallel? What are the strengths, and what could be improved?
  • Now assess the evidence. Which facts and examples do you find most and least convincing? What additional evidence would improve the arguments?
  • What's your view of the employees' approach? Do you find the memo and call to join a Facebook group an effective choice for the company? What could be some alternatives? 
  • In what ways is this situation an example of diversity and inclusion at Facebook?
  • In what ways does the memo demonstrate courage?

Report Concludes that Amazon Is "Delivering Hate"

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A scathing report accuses Amazon of spreading hate in the form of white supremacist and racist material. The report, published by Partnership for Working Families and the Action Center on Race and the Economy, cited books, clothing, jewelry, and other items for sale. Listings include Nazi memorabilia, references to lynching, and Confederate flags, for example, a baby's onesie with a burning cross and a noose decal.

The report authors argue that, although Amazon has policies in place to prevent the sale of "products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views," the company acts too slowly or not at all to remove such items. 

Danielle Citron, a professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, said that Amazon hasn't been criticized as much as Twitter and Facebook have been.

Discussion:

  • The law professor acknowledged that Amazon wouldn't be held liable. What do you think is the company's responsibility?
  • What's the danger of both too little and too much oversight of item listings? 
  • Analyze the report: audience, objectives, organization, writing style, and so on? Which business report writing principles are followed, and what could be improved?

Before You Hit Delete: How to Respond to Emails You Want to Ignore

Students know how it feels: you spend hours crafting the perfect email—and then nothing. You refresh and refresh, check on your phone, laptop, and desktop. We know how it feels, so why don’t people respond to emails? Here are three common reasons and suggested responses for each. Sometimes having the language helps, and of course, these can be adjusted to the situation and for your own style.

Inappropriate or Untimely Request

  • Thanks for the email, but this isn’t really my area of interest [or expertise]. I hope you find someone else to help.
  • Thanks for reaching out, but I’m not the right person for this because . . .
  • This sounds like a great idea, but I’m fully committed at this point. Best of luck on the project.
  • Can this possibly wait until September when I’ll have more time to focus on this?

Obvious or Annoying Question

  • May I suggest that you look at the policy for this information? [Add a link.]
  • I’m not sure I understand your question. Can you please clarify how I can help?
  • From my point of view, we already covered this when we talked on Thursday. I’m not sure how else to clarify my thinking on this.
  • I’m forwarding your email to . . . who can better address your question.

Overwhelming Request or Question

  • This is a lot! Could we schedule a quick call to discuss?
  • I’m having trouble digesting all of this. Can you please send back a few bullets that I can respond to?
  • The short answer to your question is . . . If you need more from me, can you please be more specific about how I can help?
  • I can answer some of this . . . For your other questions, I suggest trying . . .

Admittedly, all of these responses require some engagement, but we respond to emails for good reasons: to demonstrate respect, to educate, and for reciprocity. I would argue that replying is “the right thing to do”—and a brief response requires very little from us to be good corporate citizens.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • When have you written an email that was ignored? Why do you think the person didn't respond, and how did you feel? Could you have done anything differently to get a response?
  • When have you ignored an email? Why didn't you respond?
  • Do you agree that responding is the "right thing to do"? Why or why not? When, if ever, is it acceptable to ignore an email?
  • What leadership character dimensions may be lacking when people don't respond to emails?