High profile Sony Entertainment Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal is just the latest example of someone who foolishly put her career on the line by writing stupid emails.
In the midst of Sony being hacked, with employees’ social security numbers, salaries and other vital information going online, the hackers also included a bunch of email exchanges. The most juicy of which were some emails from Pascal to producer Scott Rudin in which they make fun of an event Pascal has to attend and meet President Obama. She goes on to make “racially insensitive” remarks as the LA Times put it, or in other words, racist jokes.
When these emails hit the web, the results were predictable. She and Rudin went into damage control, releasing statements that sound like everybody else’s statements who have done similar idiotic things. In Pascal’s case she said, “The content of my emails to Scott were insensitive and inappropriate but are not an accurate reflection of who I am.”
In other words, someone else took control of her computer and wrote those emails because it wasn’t her.
When these things happen, executives rush to “crisis management” experts for advice and to make it all better. These crisis management gurus (of which I am one) try their best to release statements that try to explain away the mishap and then make recommendations about actions the executive can take to prove s/he isn’t racist.
It is mind boggling that people who have achieved such high levels of success, whether in the corporate or political arenas, can be so foolish. They put in writing — whether in confidential emails or on Twitter — comments, remarks, jokes, whatever that make people scratch their heads. How can people who are seemingly so smart, be so stupid?
When executives look to crisis management experts to make it all go away, the experts are usually wondering what they were thinking in the first place. If you don’t want a crisis, don’t put things private thoughts in writing. Period.
But the real solution is if someone truly isn’t a racist, then s/he will not think racist thoughts and there will be no chance that racism will emerge in their friendly email exchanges.