Code Red for Reputation

August 31, 2008

Code Red for Reputation

I did not know this but a Dallas attorney named Steve Kardell makes predictions about the biggest scandals he foresees every year. He hit the nail on the head with last year’s prediction that subprime woes would be this year’s biggest headline. Predictions for the coming year are announced this coming week when he teaches a class at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law.  In addition to his prediction that off-label marketing by pharma companies will reach scandalous heights over the next 12 months, he foresees companies coming down really hard on misbehaving middle managers, not just the “guys” at the top. Kardell notes that a Google search for “internal investigations” comes up with 2.6 million hits. No small number. Companies are getting serious. The writer of the article asked Kardell, “So what do you do if you feel your boss or company is pushing the ethical envelope?” Kardell responds: “You avoid taking it public at all costs. There are no happy endings [when you do that]. You ruin the reputation that you’ve spent a lifetime building. You’re radioactive.” Yikes. At least Kardell says he feels bad about offering such advice and counsels employees to try to work within the system when they spot something amiss. He raises a good point about keeping it all in the family if possible. That is a good first step. Yet, it seems to me that when you keep your whistle blowing internal and months drag into years, you’ve got a problem. My last posting was about a similar situation. There must be a better way to get boards and senior management to address issues coming from employees and take action . Kardell is right in predicting that employees are going to increasingly take to the “net waves” with complaints and revelations and make company reputation vulnerable in a way never before imagined. He also advises employees to keep awake during their company compliance training sessions. He makes a good point.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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