There comes a day in the life of many top executives, both in the public and private sectors, when aspects of professional conduct within their organisations are exposed and interpreted by the media and public in an irrationally negative light.
Entirely normal, routine and reasonable organisational behaviour seems to periodically attract accusations such as: fraud, greed, contempt for financial regulations, a cavalier disregard for the interests of one or other sector of society – or even a total avoidance of laws in general.
Most irritating and perplexing for the poor managers subjected to such scurrilous and unjust allegations is that claims are not simply made by the ill-informed, little people. Ordinary losers cannot, after all, be expected to understand normal organisational affairs at a senior level. In addition to these plebs, simplistic, misinformed and unreasonable criticisms are frequently levelled by regulatory bodies, public enquiries, the courts, and governments.
It is of absolutely no use to respond to such institutions by pointing out that they are being stupid and pedantic and do not understand your organisation or the real world – true though this may be, it would simply provoke further antagonism.
The following checklist has therefore been devised by those with prior experience to assist senior executives when they find themselves in such an unfortunate and unenviable position.
The notes below recommended key actions and public statements for each stage of the witch hunt that an unfortunate, misunderstood top manager might have to endure.
1 – Alleged issue first exposed in a manner that cannot be ignored:
*Say that you are taking the allegations very seriously indeed.
*Immediately and strenuously deny any personal wrongdoing.
*Promise a full internal enquiry.
*If anyone has been obviously physically harmed or killed, say that safety is your number one priority.
*Stress that the customer (or service user or whoever) always comes first.
*Argue that an independent enquiry is totally unnecessary and that you are in the best position to identify the factors that may have led to misunderstandings about the matters alleged.
*Make plans to transfer as much money as possible to your untraceable, offshore accounts.
*Check expiry date of passport.
2 – Sufficient evidence of the alleged issue has emerged to make a blanket denial no longer credible:
*Say that you are appalled by what has happened and that you are determined that there should be a full and transparent process to uncover where mistakes have been made.
*Welcome any police investigation, and say that you will cooperate fully with it.
*Welcome any independent enquiry, and express certainty that your honesty and integrity will be vindicated.
*Practise looking sincere in a mirror before attending any parliamentary committee.
*Behave in relation to all questioning as if your organisation is a car that has mysteriously developed a fault. You just happened to have been driving it at the time, but you are as amazed and bewildered as any layperson about what caused the problem.
*Never try to blame anyone else, however junior, or they will point the finger back at you. Remember that a lot of your staff knew exactly what was going on. Continue to adopt, therefore, the attitude that any alleged irregularity simply arose in a mysterious, unexpected way and, as such, blame could never be attributed.
*Transfer as much money as possible to your untraceable, offshore accounts.
*Check extradition arrangements with the countries to which you might leave in a hurry.
3 – Alleged issue proven:
*Say that the final official judgement on your organisation’s behaviour was a deeply humbling experience (the Murdoch gambit – as it has come to be known).
*Admit that mistakes had been made.
*State that lessons will be learned.
*Double check that your personal assets are quite separate from any corporate funds that may be required to pay fines or compensation.
*Keep your head down for a few months until everyone has forgotten about the matter – or until another innocent colleague in a different organisation has become the victim of a similar hysterical feeding frenzy by the media, the public and official bodies.
4 – After the dust has settled:
*Simply carry on exactly as before until faced with any new set of scurrilous and unjust accusations – after all, why should you change your behaviour? You did nothing at all wrong.