Amazon Changes NYC Plans


After months of searching for a new headquarters location and deciding on Long Island City, Amazon has changed course and withdrawn the plan. In a blog post, the company explained the decision:

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After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.

We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion—we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture—and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.

We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can’t speak positively enough about all their efforts. The steadfast commitment and dedication that these leaders have demonstrated to the communities they represent inspired us from the very beginning and is one of the big reasons our decision was so difficult.

We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.

Thank you again to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the many other community leaders and residents who welcomed our plans and supported us along the way. We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.

Amazon claims the new office would have created 25,000 jobs, but NYC lawmakers questioned the subsidies the company would have received. Critics also oppose Amazon’s anti-union stance and cite concerns about how the growth would affect Queens. In the end, officials say Amazon was inflexible; one local politician referred to the company as “a petulant child.”

According to a New York Times article, “Amazon’s decision is a major blow for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had set aside their differences to lure the giant tech company to New York.”

Long Island city image source.

Discussion:

  • Analyze Amazon’s statement. How well does the company announce the decision, while maintaining relationships?

  • What else, if anything, should the company say at this point?

  • Should Governor Cuomo or Mayor de Blasio make their own announcements? Why or why not?

Updates on the Virginia Govenor

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Whether Virginia Governor Ralph Northam resigns just got more complicated. If Northam steps down because of racist photos in his yearbook, the lieutenant governor would replace him. But Justin Fairfax faces his own challenges: a woman accused him of sexual assault.

Fairfax denies the claims and refers to the incident at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston as consensual sex. To complicate matters further, Fairfax has accused Northam’s supporters of a “smear” campaign:

“Does anybody think it’s any coincidence that on the eve of potentially my being elevated that that’s when this uncorroborated smear comes out?”

Fairfax also questioned whether Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond may have been involved in the accusation to which Stoney responded, “The insinuation is 100 percent not true, and frankly it’s offensive.”

For its part, Eastern Virginia Medical School is investigating how the racist photos got into the 1984 yearbook.

Justin Fairfax image source.

Election night image source.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view of Fairfax’s response?

  • Should a 2004 sexual assault charge prevent Fairfax from replacing Northam?

  • Should the replacement issue drive whether Northam resigns?

  • What is the medical school’s responsibility in this situation?

Governor's Racist Yearbook Images

Virginia State Governor Ralph Northam is facing calls for his resignation when images from his 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced. After Northam was in the news this week for supporting women’s rights to an abortion, a conservative group posted the images on the website Big League Politics.

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Two people appear in one image: one in blackface and the other wearing a KKK outfit. Northam responded to the controversy with this statement:

“I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now. This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment.”

For some, the apology isn’t enough. Several democrats who recently entered the 2020 presidential race have weighed in: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), and Julián Castro (former mayor of San Antonio) all called for Northam’s resignation. He has been in office about 13 months.

UPDATE: Governor Northam now says he did not appear in the photo, and he refuses to resign:

Discussion:

  • What do you think Northam thought when he ran for office? Did he not remember the photo, or did he not think it was a big deal, or was he hoping that people wouldn’t find out? You have to wonder.

  • Should Northam have done or said anything in addition to the apology to garner more support? Would it have made a difference in the public response?

  • How do you interpret Northam changing position?

  • Should Northam resign? Why or why not?

McKinsey PPT Slide Causes Problems

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Back in 2006, Boeing hired management consultancy McKinsey to help the company launch its 787 Dreamliner despite rising titanium prices. According to a New York Times article, McKinsey evaluated a proposal for Boeing “to mine titanium in India through a foreign partnership financed by an influential Ukrainian oligarch.”

On a PowerPoint slide, the consultancy suggested that Boeing “respect traditional bureaucratic process including use of bribes.” Included on the slide were names of eight “key Indian officials.” As the article notes, “Nowhere in the slide did McKinsey advise that such a scheme would be illegal or unwise.”

McKinsey admitted authoring the report only after learning that the Times had a copy. Details are fuzzy, and McKinsey isn’t offering more explanation.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view of McKinsey’s responsibility in this situation? Do you believe they encouraged illegal activity, were just doing the job of management consultant firm and considering cultural realities, or something else?

  • The PPT slide seems to have implicated McKinsey. Should the consultants have been more careful about what was documented? Why or why not?

  • What character issues may be at play in this situation?

  • The NYT author wrote, “Nowhere in the slide…” I would say, “Nowhere on the slide…” Which is correct—or are both acceptable?

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?



Prep School Criticized for Abuse and False Apps

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College prep school T.M. Landry has garnered national attention for helping Black students get into college, but all has not been well at the school. Students are speaking out about emotional and physical abuse as well as falsified college applications.

According to a New York Times report, examples of physical abuse include “forced to kneel on rice, rocks, or hot concrete for hours” and being “choked, yelled at, and berated.” Students report being told to lie on college applications about classes they took and the conditions under which they grew up, for example, exaggerating their poverty.

The Landrys, a married couple who run the school, defended their actions, saying they push kids to their limits. Mr Landry admits to physical contact, and he said, “Oh, I yell a lot.” Since a 2013 case against him that included probation, Landry says he no longer practices physical punishment. He also denied falsifying students’ applications.

College results have not been great. Students who spent more time at the prep school are more likely to withdraw or transfer to less demanding programs. The New York Times article describes an unaccredited school with little traditional programming, so students may not be academically prepared for the schools that admit them.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • Assess the school website. The opening video features Mr. Landry, and the rest of the site boasts college acceptances. How convincing might families find the way the school is promoted? Other than admitting abuse, should the site say more to give parents and prospective students a more accurate picture of the school philosophy and practice?

  • How is this situation an example of failing integrity? Also consider intent versus impact. What could the founders' intent, and how is that different from the impact? 

Dolce and Gabanna Cancels Show and Apologizes

Italian fashion designer Dolce and Gabanna cancelled a major show scheduled in Shanghai and apologized to the Chinese people for an offensive ad and comments on social media. The ad showed Chinese-French model Estelle Chen, in separate videos, eating pizza and pasta with chopsticks. With stereotypical music in the background, the ads seem to mock the woman and a Chinese pronunciation of the company’s name.

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After criticism on Weibo, the company made the situation far worse. Co-founder Stefano Gabbana posted negative comments, at right, about China and its people on Instagram, and then denied the comments, claiming his account had been hacked.

Later, Dolce and Gabbana leaders tried to recover by posting a statement on the company’s Instagram account: "We are very sorry for any distress caused by these unauthorized posts. We have nothing but respect for China and the people of China." Another post read, "Our dream was to bring to Shanghai a tribute event dedicated to China which tells our history and vision. It was not simply a fashion show, but something that we created especially with love and passion for China and all the people around the world who loves Dolce & Gabbana.”

They also posted an apology video.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view of the ad series? Can you see how people would think they are offensive? Why or why not?

  • How well did Dolce and Gabanna eventually recover from the incident? Analyze the apology video.

  • Which leadership character dimensions are illustrated by this situation?

Negative Reports About Facebook

Two recent articles cite trouble at Facebook. The first is a New York Times story titled, “Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis.” The report is a damning criticism of how the company, and particularly Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, handled recent situations:

But as evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.

The article accuses the company’s response to Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections, data privacy issues, and hate speech and propaganda. The article describes aggressive lobbying and efforts to conceal Russia’s infiltration of the network.

The second article, a Wall Street Journal report, describes declining employee morale at Facebook. Criticism about the company and the declining stock price are getting difficult for employees to stomach. According to the Journal article, employees are questioning the company’s growth strategy and are concerned by a lack of innovation. Employees are also less optimistic about the company’s future. One year ago, 87% employees said they were optimistic; today, that number is 52%.

The Times article reports that Zuckerberg has been asked whether it’s time for new company leadership, and he has repeatedly said that he will not step aside.

Zuckerberg image source.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view of the situation at Facebook? Is the Times article on target, too harsh, too lenient, or something else?

  • One possibility is that the company is experiencing a natural progression—a growth cycle that most companies experience. What do you think?

  • What are the value and potential downsides of employee surveys?

Nissan Chairman Is Arrested

Nissan’s chairman was arrested for financial misconduct, including under-reporting his income in securities fillings. Carlos Ghosn may have been engaging in improprieties for years.

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The news came as a surprise to many. Ghosn is a popular business figure, credited with turning around Nissan, Renault, and Mitsubishi by forming an alliance and directing cost-cutting and layoffs. According to a Wall Street Journal article, the shock is felt particularly at Renault; a union leader described the reaction as “a feeling of stupefaction and a lot of anger.”

The French government has a 15% state in Renault, so President Emmanuel Macron also weighed in: “As a shareholder, the French state will remain extremely vigilant regarding the stability of the alliance.” At this point, officials are still trying to sort out the news and determine leadership going forward.

Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa delivered a news statement, translated in English on Bloomberg. The company also issued this matter-of-fact statement.

Nissan image source. Ghosn image source.

Discussion:

  • Why would a successful business executive engage in financial misconduct? What leadership character dimensions are lacking?

  • How does financial impropriety go on for years in a situation like this? Who should be accountable for the misconduct?

  • Assess Saikawa’s news statement. What works well to improve brand image, and what could be improved?

Announcing a Restaurant Closing

Danny Meyer gives us a great model of how to write a bad-news message. In his announcement about closing the restaurant North End Grill, Meyer demonstrates communicating with humility and transparency.

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Meyer describes the pain involved in closing a restaurant, including the effect on employees. He admits to mistakes and relates this closing to Tabla, which closed four years ago. He didn’t need to remind us, but he does so humbly, and as a lesson to learn from failure.

Meyer’s message is encouragement for compassionate, transparent communication planning:

All too often in our industry, a padlock on the front door might be the very first notice employees, landlords, and suppliers receive that a restaurant will be closing. 

He also teaches us that leading requires courage:

[W]hen reality dictates closing, we have a choice: to do so in secrecy and shame, or instead, with dignity, integrity, and pride.

Restaurant image source. Meyer image source.

Discussion:

  • Analyze Meyer’s full statement: audience, objectives, writing style, organization, etc. What works well, and what could be improved?

  • In what ways does Meyer’s statement illustrate vulnerability as a leadership strength?

White House Tweets Doctored Video

There is no love lost, as they say, between President Trump and CNN Correspondent Jim Acosta. Now, Acosta has been suspended from the White House because of what Press Secretary Sarah Sanders described as “a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern.”

However, Sanders posted a video that Storyful compared to C-SPAN’s, and a different story emerges. In the C-SPAN version, Acosta’s hand inadvertently touches the intern’s arm. The White House version omits three frames, misleading viewers to see more aggressive touching—a “chop.”

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A Wall Street Journal article and a Wired report show the videos frame by frame, side by side.

CNN posted that the news organization stands by Acosta, and Sanders tweeted that the White House stands by its decision.

Discussion:

  • One theory is that the White House obtained the doctored video from InfoWars, a conservative news organization. If this is true, should the White House staff have done a better job vetting the source?

  • Assuming the White House didn’t know the video was edited, what should they do or say now?

  • Analyze the unedited video. What, if any, responsibility does Acosta have for the incident?

  • #MicrophoneMeghan is trending. Who’s responsible for the (probably) unwanted attention?

Elementary Teachers Dress as Border Wall

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For Halloween, elementary school teachers in Middleton, Idaho, wore costumes portraying parts of a border wall and depicting stereotypes of Mexicans. Pictures showing them smiling as a group with the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” were posted to a Facebook page.

The teachers dressed up during school hours, and parents alerted the school administrators to the problem. In addition to their complaints, 12 local advocacy organizations wrote a letter to the superintendent, including this statement:

“The intent or misjudgments of the individuals involved does not undo the trauma experienced by students, families and communities. The impact on these students does not stay only with them but has lasting effects beyond the school or classroom. We believe the school and classrooms have now become hostile environments that are not conducive to the education of the students.”

In response, the school district posted a statement on its website:

The events that took place at Heights Elementary School in Middleton on Halloween are disturbing and inappropriate. The teachers involved, as well as school administrative personnel, and the Middleton School District showed extremely poor judgment.

The messages conveyed are the antithesis of the beliefs and values of the Idaho Education Association and its dedicated members throughout the state.

The IEA and the Middleton Education Association stand ready, willing, and able to assist the district in providing diversity and cultural competency training for Middleton School District employees. As troubling as the situation is, it does provide us with an opportunity for education and growth so that people can be made more aware of how hurtful these kinds of insensitive behaviors can be.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view of the teachers’ costumes: harmless fun, insensitive, hurtful, or something else?

  • Assess the district’s statement. Who is the audience and what are the communication objectives? How well does it achieve its purpose.

  • Write a better apology. How can you demonstrate humility and address concerns more specifically? Include consequences: what should the district do as a result?

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?

Google Admits Sexual Harassment Incidents

It’s been quiet until now, but Google has fired 48 employees for sexual harassment. A New York Times article exposed a number of high-profile departures dating back to 2014, including Andy Rubin, who developed the Android.

Rubin was paid $90 million when the company asked for his resignation, but executives never told the entire truth: that Rubin left because he was accused of sexual misconduct. Instead, then-CEO Larry Page, complimented him: “I want to wish Andy all the best with what’s next,” and “With Android, he created something truly remarkable—with a billion-plus happy users.” Rubin denies the claim and the circumstances of his termination.

In addition to this situation, the Times article cites a number of relationships between senior-level managers and employees. An email from CEO Sundar Pichai and the VP of people operations to staff acknowledges the 48 departures, including 13 “senior managers and above.”

Hi everyone,

Today's story in the New York Times was difficult to read.

We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace. We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action.

In recent years, we've made a number of changes, including taking an increasingly hard line on inappropriate conduct by people in positions of authority: in the last two years, 48 people have been terminated for sexual harassment, including 13 who were senior managers and above. None of these individuals received an exit package.

In 2015, we launched Respect@ and our annual Internal Investigations Report to provide transparency about these types of investigations at Google. Because we know that reporting harassment can be traumatic, we provide confidential channels to share any inappropriate behavior you experience or see. We support and respect those who have spoken out. You can find many ways to do this at go/saysomething. You can make a report anonymously if you wish.

We've also updated our policy to require all VPs and SVPs to disclose any relationship with a co-worker regardless of reporting line or presence of conflict.

We are committed to ensuring that Google is a workplace where you can feel safe to do your best work, and where there are serious consequences for anyone who behaves inappropriately.

Sundar and Eileen

Image source.

Discussion:

  • Should Google have been more transparent about the previous departures? Why or why not?

  • Should the executives say more in the email about the specific departures mentioned in the Times article? Why or why not?

  • Assess the email for audience analysis, objectives, tone, organization, and style. What works well, and what could be improved?

  • Which leadership character dimensions does Pichai demonstrate and fail to demonstrate?

Megyn Kelly Terminated from NBC

NBC Today Show host Megyn Kelly said she thought it was acceptable to wear blackface for Halloween. Kelly might need to brush up on the history of blackface, which started in minstrel shows in the 1800s. Then, like now, blackface reinforced racial stereotypes and was terribly demeaning to black people.

Kelly apologized on the show, but people were still upset. Her colleague, Al Roker, said “she owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country.” NBC waited two days, but insiders say she will be terminated.

Here’s the full text of her email to NBC staff:

Dear friends & teammates –

One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get the chance to express and hear a lot of opinions. Today is one of those days where listening carefully to other points of view, including from friends and colleagues, is leading me to rethink my own views.

When we had the roundtable discussion earlier today about the controversy of making your face look like a different race as part of a Halloween costume, I suggested that this seemed okay if done as part of this holiday where people have the chance to make themselves look like others. The iconic Diana Ross came up as an example. To me, I thought, why would it be controversial for someone dressing up as Diana Ross to make herself look like this amazing woman as a way of honoring and respecting her?

I realize now that such behavior is indeed wrong, and I am sorry. The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep.

I’ve never been a “pc” kind of person — but I understand that we do need to be more sensitive in this day and age. Particularly on race and ethnicity issues which, far from being healed, have been exacerbated in our politics over the past year. This is a time for more understanding, love, sensitivity and honor, and I want to be part of that. I look forward to continuing that discussion.

I’m honored to work with all of you every day.

Love,

Mk

Image source.

Discussion:

  • What’s your view of Kelly’s original comments?

  • Assess Kelly’s email. Do you find her apology meaningful, insincere, or something else?

  • Did NBC do the right thing by firing her? Why or why not?

  • We await a statement from NBC. Draft one on behalf of the company.

  • Which leadership character dimensions are illustrated by this situation?

Facebook's War on "Fake News"

Facebook has taken several steps to banish incorrect information on the site. The company provides three examples of questionable news items and the action they took, including what they missed.

In some of these situations, stories were doctored with images from related situations. One image, with the caption, “Man from Saudi spits in the face of the poor receptionist at a Hospital in London then attacks other staff,” represents a situation that happened at a veterinary hospital. The post explains, “On Facebook, we’ve seen years-old images of violent acts, protests and war zones reposted and used to inflame current racial or ethnic tensions.”

Another story promised that NASA would pay people $100,000 “to stay in bed for 60 days.” Although this may sound appealing—and it did garner millions of Facebook views—again, this claim referred to an older article in which a journalist was paid $18,000 for staying in bed for 70 days. But the offer no longer stands.

A Standard study reports that Facebook’s efforts are working to reduce misinformation, although we don’t yet see the same effects on Twitter: “Interactions then fell sharply on Facebook while they continued to rise on Twitter.“ A Mashable report explains:

“Mark Zuckerberg and company may be on the right track when it comes to fighting fake news, but as you can see from those engagement numbers, it’s not a success story quite yet. Even with the downward trend over the past 2 years, Facebook is still responsible for much more of the spread of fake news than a social platform like Twitter.”

Discussion:

  • How do you interpret Facebook’s progress?

  • Assess the Facebook post. How well is the company taking responsibility and explaining what still needs to be done?

Facebook's Messaging Over Time

The Wall Street Journal reports how Facebook has repositioned itself since its founding in 2004.

In 2005, at Harvard, founder Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook’s purpose is to ”look people up” and for “connecting to people.” In 2008, Facebooke expands and messages focus on helping people “share information. . . and share parts of their identity with each other.” In 2010, Zuckerberg’s vision enlarged: “People can have instantly social and personalized experiences everywhere that they go.” Soon after, Zuckerberg focused on problem solving.

In 2012, Zuckerberg said, “Our mission isn’t to be a public company. Our mission is to make the world more open and connected.” By 2013, Zuckerberg was seeing Facebook’s role in selecting governments, getting healthcare access—improving people’s lives.

More recently, given concerns about privacy and misinformation, Zuckerberg’s messages focus on responsibility.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • The WSJ video has a negative connotation about Facebook’s changing message, particularly in light of today’s news about shareholder proposals to split Zuckerberg’s roles. Do you agree with this assessment?

  • How well has Zuckerberg handled messages about the evolution of Facebook in the past 14 years? What, if anything, can he do differently now?

  • Do you agree with the proposal to split the CEO and chairman jobs? In other words, does Zuckerberg have too power? Does he need help at this point?

  • How is Facebook’s evolving messaging a potential matter of integrity?

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?

Serena Williams Controversy

Serena Williams lost the U.S. Open women’s final tennis match and criticized umpire Carlos Ramos. A Washington Post article delves into “whether sexism, conscious or not, skews the playing field.”

The writer offers the following evidence:

  • Ramos still has support from the International Tennis Federation.

  • London Telegraph published data showing that, for the past 20 years, men received code violation fines almost three times as often as women. The writer acknowledges that men’s games are longer, but she says this doesn’t account for the entire difference.

  • An Australian newspaper criticized for what some consider a racist image of Williams boldly republished it on the cover with the headline, “Welcome to the PC World.”

The writer offers more evidence on both sides of the issue and suggests changes within the association.

Williams image source.

Discussion:

  • Read more about the situation if you are unfamiliar. What could Williams and Ramos each have done differently?

  • What’s your view overall? Was Williams treated unfairly? Did she react appropriately?

  • How do you assess Williams’ response after the incident? How well did she recover from the so-called “outburst”?

  • What leadership character dimensions are illustrated by this situation?

Changes at Riot Games

Following allegations of sexism, Riot Games has apologized and is making changes. A long report by Kotaku placed blame mostly on the fast company growth and sexist working environment.

Trying to shed its “bro-culture” stigma, leaders have acknowledged that the company could be more inclusive. In a long statement last month titled, “Our First Steps Forward,” the company starts by apologizing to “to all those we’ve let down.” The statement then lists steps the company will take around inclusion initiatives, staffing, training, and so on

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In a more recent statement, the company announced hiring a “leadership and strategy expert,” Frances Frei, who had also worked with Uber. The statement includes this quotation from Frei:

“After spending time with Riot’s leadership and many others across the organization, it became clear that Riot is truly putting everything on the table and committing to evolving its culture. In my interactions with Rioters, I’ve seen extraordinary levels of engagement on these issues across the company. Every Rioter with whom I’ve met truly cares about inclusion, which means real change is possible. Riot isn’t interested simply in fixing problems on the surface, it has the ambition to be an industry leader and to provide a roadmap for others to follow. I share that ambition and am eager to help Riot navigate this process.”

Frei image source.

Discussion:

  • Read Kotaku’s report. How credible do you find the investigation and reporting? What could increase the credibility?

  • Assess Riot Games’ statement. Who is the audience and what are the communication objectives? How do the organization, writing style, and tone affect your assessment?

  • Now assess the statement about Frei. What’s your view of including Frei’s statement? What else, if anything, should be included in the statement?

  • Overall, how well is Riot Games demonstrating accountability? What other leadership character dimensions are demonstrated?