HAMDEN — Executives behaving badly. Sounds like the title of a sensationalistic reality TV show. But the phrase could apply to a real-life episode in the life of one CEO who recently made headlines when he was seen abusing his dog in a publicly released video.
Companies in such a position are forced to channel their efforts into addressing it. But what exactly should they do? Andrea Obston, who teaches in Quinnipiac University’s public relations program, counsels businesses on how to react when they find themselves in crisis mode.
“About 40 percent of my public relations practice is crisis management,” says Obston, who advises clients to “monitor and respond immediately when faced with negative publicity.”
In addition to her position as an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac, Obston is owner of Andrea Obston Marketing Communications in Bloomfield.
Last month Desmond Hague, then CEO of Stamford-based catering company Centerplate, made international headlines when a video showing him kicking his dog was made public. The development left Hague and his company — which services high-profile (and high-paying) clients that include National Football League, Major League Baseball and National Hockey League teams — open to global scrutiny and public backlash. The company’s board of directors responded by placing Hague on probation and fining him $100,000 (to establish an animal-cruelty prevention foundation). Hague subsequently resigned and an acting president and CEO was immediately appointed to replace him.
While to date Obston has not dealt directly with Centerplate regarding the Hague incident, she has worked with other companies in similar circumstances.
The first thing she tells them, she says, is to quickly address the issue publicly.
“Silence is not an option,” Obston says. “Damage to a reputation sometimes cannot be repaired. You need to do it [respond]. People are judging our corporation and how you handle the situation.”
Companies also should not waste time trying to debate issues of privacy, says Obston. Even though Hague’s damaging act did not occur at the workplace, the company still must respond.
“He’s a highly placed individual within the company,” Obston says.
The Hague situation is similar to that of Donald Sterling, former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team. Sterling made derogatory remarks during a private conversation and the exchange was recorded, unknown to him. It eventually was made public.
“The interesting thing is, you need to understand their [executive’s] private business becomes the company’s business,” Obston says. “The reality is that there needs to be more transparency now.”
Regrding Hague’s animal abuse, “People want to know why he wasn’t in control. If you don’t address it, they’ll wonder what else you’ve got to hide. Take control of the message early on.”
Also, be aware of reaction so you address it, says Obston.
“It [the company] needs to monitor the conversation,” she says. “It cannot rely on in-house sources to know what people are saying. If you’re not monitoring the conversation, you’re doing yourself a disservice.”
There are two kinds of employee bad-behavior crises, notes Obston. One relates directly to the business, such as embezzlement. The other may not be directly work-related and is more character related. The initial company response for both is generally the same, she says.
First, “State you know about it,” says Obston. Then, “Demonstrate concern and compassion. Third, state that what [the employee] did is the antithesis of what you believe are your corporate values.”
If Obston were working with the employee, “I’d counsel him to come out as a human being and apologize,” she says.
“A successful crisis response is always governed by mission,” Obston says, adding that the response should last “as long as it’s out there.” However, she cautions, “you have to be careful you don’t feed it.”
NORTHFORD — The state’s Department of Labor wants to make sure former employees of Honeywell Analytics-Northford are aware of their eligibility to apply for federal Trade Adjustment Assistance. Among possible benefits are income support in the form of Trade Readjustment Allowance, job search and relocation allowances; and training. In addition, workers who are age 50 or older who secure a job at a lower-paying rate than the pay rate held at Honeywell could be eligible for a wage subsidy. For more information, those affected should contact their nearest Job Center and/or visit ct.gov/dol.
EAST HARTFORD — In a visit to Goodwin College last month, Vice President Joseph Biden emphasized the importance of community colleges for job training, and the need for educational institutions to take into account business and industry needs when designing curricula. “[H]ere’s the deal. Your children all heard the phrase ‘outsourcing.’ Your grandchildren are going to hear the phrase ‘insourcing.’ Manufacturing is coming back to the United States of America,” Biden is quoted as saying in a White House release. However, Biden continued, available jobs will be different from the ones with which most workers have been familiar. “What’s coming back requires different skills than before,” he said. In preparation for current and future demand, Goodwin College added a manufacturing track to a curriculum that had been focused largely on career training in the medical fields. This year students can pursue an associate degree in supply chain and logistics management and in quality management systems. They can also earn a certificate in machining and in manufacturing and production. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who headed the Connecticut contingent accompanying Biden, said Connecticut’s manufacturing sector will expand to the point where it will need to hire 2,200 workers annually for some time in the near future.
HAMDEN — The Los Angeles offices of Coldwell Banker, Warner Bros., Nickelodeon and other well-known corporations were workplaces this summer for 14 Quinnipiac University students who participated in the school’s new “Quinnipiac in Los Angeles” program. The program gives undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to combine coursework with an internship while living in Los Angeles. Students participating this summer were from the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business and Engineering, and School of Communications, and represented a range of fields and interests. Program creator F. Miguel Valenti envisions program expansion that will include guest speakers and special events. “I believe we have created a distinctive and distinguished program — unique and exciting,” Valenti said in a release, “that will broaden student horizons, further their career goals, advance their studies and give them perhaps their most memorable college semester.”
KENT — Over the next several months, local native Lindsay Rodman will take the training, skills and discipline she acquired as a Marine and as an attorney to the hallowed halls of the White House. Rodman was among 15 individuals nationwide selected as White House fellows for 2014-15. The selection committee for the highly competitive appointments emphasizes that it looks for people who not only are accomplished in their careers, but also display a commitment to public service. The White House Fellows Program marks its 50th anniversary this year. It was created in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson “to give promising American leaders ‘first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the federal government, and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs,’” according to a White House release. Rodman, a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, is also a judge advocate and a foreign area officer. Her most recent position was deputy legal counsel in the Office of the Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There, she focused attention on issues that included military justice, space law and human rights law. A 2003 graduate of Duke University, where she majored in mathematics, Rodman earned her law degree at Harvard Law School and also holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
WETHERSFIELD — The number of jobs added in Connecticut during the month of July continues in an upward direction, according to state labor analysts. For the sixth consecutive month, the state experienced a net increase in non-farm jobs; the total for July was 2,400, according to the state Department of Labor’s Office of Research. Additionally, the unemployment rate continued to decrease. It was 6.6 percent in July -- down 0.1 percent from the previous month, and the lowest it’s been since 2008. “Connecticut experienced its first back-to-back June-July non-farm employment gain since the recovery began in early 2010,” stated Office of Research Director Andy Condon. “This growth, along with continued declines in the number of unemployed, may be an indication that the moderate employment growth we have seen this year will be sustainable for some time.” The July net increase was the result of a combined 3,100 added positions in the private sector and decrease of 700 positions in government segments. Sectors with the greatest gains in July were manufacturing, with 1,000; and construction, leisure and hospitality, and other services, with 800 each. In addition to government, sectors marking job losses in July were information (-400); trade, transportation and utilities (-100); and professional and business services (-100).
Study: State’s recovery mostly benefits upper-income workers
NEW HAVEN — Fewer jobs, declining wages and growing unemployment plague segments of Connecticut’s workforce who find it more difficult to sustain a living wage even as the economy purportedly improves, according to the latest Connecticut Voices for Children report.
Titled “States of Working Connecticut 2014,” the report maintains that lack of jobs and low wages for low- and middle-income workers must be addressed in order for the state to fully recover from the recession.
“Only Connecticut’s highest earners have seen wage growth since 2000,” a release summarizing the report states. “Low- and median-wage earners have watched their inflation-adjusted wages stagnate, while high-wage workers have enjoyed a raise of nearly 50 percent.”
The state has 50,000 fewer jobs than it did at the beginning of the recession, and some 100,000 fewer positions than in 1989, according to the report. What is more, says the report, young workers, workers of color and those with less education are hit much harder than others where jobs and wages are concerned. Last year, the unemployment rate for workers ages 16 to 24 was about twice that (13.8 percent) of adults age 25 to 54 (7 percent), according to the report. Race also played a factor in wages, with black and Hispanic workers earning less than whites. The median hourly wage for black workers was 72 percent of what whites made, and for Hispanics the median wage was 63 percent of the wages of whites.
CVC, a research-based policy think tank that focuses on how social, economic and political issues impact Connecticut’s children and families, asserts that the job and wage disparities it documented are dire.
“The children of today’s struggling workers will form the backbone of tomorrow’s workforce,” said Ellen Shemitz, CVC executive director, in the release. “If we want to ensure the future success of our state, then we need to make smart investments today in children, families and educational opportunity. Smart policies that make work pay and that ensure meaningful pathways to success should not be considered matters of choice. They are clear necessities.”
CVC recommended restoring the state’s earned-income tax credit to its original level, and making high-quality early childhood care and education more accessible, among other remedies to help low-income families. This would benefit the economy in the long run, according to Wade Gibson, CVC’s director of fiscal policy and co-author of the report.
“By investing in the education of our children and supporting them through our tax code,” said Gibson, “we can support struggling families today and build a healthier economic future.”
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