Amy Newman is a senior lecturer of management communication at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, School of Hotel Administration. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in business writing, persuasive speaking, and corporate communication. Amy is author of Business Communication: In Person, In Print, Online, 10e and Building Leadership Character: Lessons from Communication Failures. Prior to joining Cornell, Amy taught at Ithaca College, eCornell, and Milano. She also has 20 years of corporate and external consulting experience for Reuters, Canon, Scholastic, and other companies.
Since the scandal broke, Volkswagen has sprung in action, making executive changes and stepping up communications. No surprise, Martin Winterkorn resigned. However, his statement is unusual (as was his video, considering the likelihood that he would leave the company):
"I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group. "As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the Supervisory Board to agree on terminating my function as CEO of the Volkswagen Group. I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part. "Volkswagen needs a fresh start – also in terms of personnel. I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation. "I have always been driven by my desire to serve this company, especially our customers and employees. Volkswagen has been, is and will always be my life. "The process of clarification and transparency must continue. This is the only way to win back trust. I am convinced that the Volkswagen Group and its team will overcome this grave crisis."
Since the decision on Wednesday, VW has hired a new chief executive, Matthias Müller, previously head of Porsche. A New York Times article title calls him an "insider"—notable because of criticism about the company's centralized control of power.
Additional communications include the following:
It's hard to imagine how such a mistake could happen. A Chicago TV station showed a Nazi image when talking about Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. "Jude" is the German word for Jew, and the blue stripes were used on Jewish uniforms in concentration camps.
The station issued apologies live and on Twitter.
"Last night we ran a story to recognize Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Regrettably, we failed to recognize that the artwork we chose to accompany the story contained an offensive symbol. This was an unfortunate mistake. Ignorance is not an excuse. We are extremely embarrassed and we deeply apologize to our viewers and to the Jewish community for this mistake.
"We are investigating how this situation occurred, reviewing our in-house policies and making changes in order to avoid such mistakes from happening in the future. Thank you for your understanding. We promise to do better."
The University of Kansas lost a lawsuit after expelling a student for posting derogatory tweets about his girlfriend. According to the court decision, the university's code of conduct applies only to tweets posted while a student is on campus. Without clear evidence, Navid Yeasin should not have been expelled: he could have tweeted while off campus.
Although the university argued that off-campus harassment can create a hostile on-campus environment, the court disagreed:
"It seems obvious that the only environment the university can control is on campus or at university-sponsored or supervised events. After all, the university is not an agency of law enforcement but is rather an institution of learning."
An attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) supported the decision:
"To police stuff that doesn't have any connection with the university is a waste of resources. And to police speech — no matter how (offensive) that speech is — is a waste of resources. KU needs to focus on real sexual assault on campus."
Volkswagen customers are furious, and the executives have a lot of explaining to do. Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn may be known for his meticulousness, but he missed the boat in ensuring that the company met ethical industry standards. An investigation has revealed that millions of diesel cars don't meet emissions guidelines; worse yet, software to intentionally deceive tests was built into many models.
A New York Times article covers background (drama) between Winterkorn and former Chairman Ferdinand Piëch. Now, Winterkorn seems to be holding the responsibility. Because VW has centralized management practices, he'll have a tough time convincing stakeholders that senior management wasn't involved.
As you can imagine, VW customers aren't happy about the situation. They bought the "clean diesel" line from the company and "green" award-winning Passats, Golfs, Jettas, Beetles, and Audi A3's that aren't what the company claimed. The fixes are expensive and will cause drops in performance or trunk space. A Wired article also warns that, whether people "dodge the recall or not, your car’s resale value is likely to drop as far and fast as VW’s stock, which has plunged 20 percent since the feds came down on VW Friday."
On its website, VW posted two statements relevant to this situation. The first addresses the findings and apologizes (below), and the second—issued two days later—says the company is "working at full speed to clarify irregularities concerning a particular software used in diesel engines."
In addition to these written statements, Winterkorn created an apology video:
UPDATE: Today's post, as predicted, included Winterkorn's resignation:
eBay sent an email to its customers to announce new terms and posted the revised agreement on its website. In June, when eBay spun off PayPal, both companies changed their user agreements—and heard from the New York attorney general. They wanted to make automated calls to collect payments or get feedback, but such "robocalls" could be illegal in New York State.
This time, the guidelines aren't making many waves. One highlighted change is about contacting users by phone: eBay says it "updated some of the language." Another indicates that reductions in fees won't be communicated in advance. Other changes focus on listings and international shipping arrangements.
At eBay, we strive to make our policies clear and our services easy to use. As part of that commitment, we're writing to you today to announce some changes to eBay's User Agreement. Our updated User Agreement will take effect on September 14, 2015 for new users and on October 28, 2015 for all other users. The updated User Agreement was posted on www.ebay.com on September 14, 2015.
Key updates to the eBay User Agreement:
Thanks for being a part of the eBay community.Sincerely,The eBay team
Facebook is introducing a "dislike" button, and people are wondering how it will be used. During a Q&A session, CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg explained that the button will express empathy. He said people have requested this since 2009 as an alternative to liking something sad, such as a death announcement, which seems odd or insensitive.
Others worry that the button will bring more negativity to social media. A ZDNet article warns that it could be used for trolling or bullying. The article describes the data the new button will reveal for marketers. It seems that the dislike button will have commercial value in addition to the social value Zuckerberg describes.
Although the button seems easy to implement, Zuckerberg said it's "surprisingly complicated" and is in testing now.
United's new CEO Oscar Munoz has reached out to United Mileage Plus members to introduce himself and try to improve the airline's image. Three executives, including the former CEO, left the company because of potential improprieties.
After communicating with employees, Munoz has sent a similar message to customers.
In an article, "How A Scandal Has Given New Life To United Airlines," the author discusses the airlines' stock gain for the past couple of days. Perhaps the CEO's clear, personal communications are contributing to the recent attention.
The Republican candidates for president debated for the second time last night, and the popular commentary is below.
Rand Paul attacked Donald Trump, the most common target of the night, in part for his comment about Carly Fiorina's appearance:
"I kind of have to laugh. I'm very concerned about having him in charge of the nuclear weapons because I think his visceral response to attack people on their appearance — short, tall, fat, ugly — my goodness, that happened in junior high. Are we not way above that? Would we not all be worried to have someone like that in charge of the nuclear arsenal?"
Trump shot back, "I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there is plenty of subject matter right there."
Fiorina handled the situation well, and several analysts applaud her "breakout performance" throughout the debate.
She was, once, put in her place by Chris Christie: "You interrupt everyone else on this stage. You're not going to interrupt me."
For 14 years, Steve Rannazzisi stuck to his story of escaping the Twin Towers during the 9/11 attacks. In 2009, he gave a detailed account of the day and how the event inspired him to move to Los Angeles. Now a comedian with his own TV show, a special on Comedy Central, and an endorsement deal with Buffalo Wild Wings, Rannazzisi's lie is biting him back.
Rannazzisi posted a series of tweets, but his confession doesn't seem to be winning him any favors. He also published a statement, which The New York Times called "contrite":
"It was profoundly disrespectful to those who perished and those who lost loved ones. The stupidity and guilt I have felt for many years has not abated. It was an early taste of having a public persona, and I made a terrible mistake. All I can ask is for forgiveness."
Buffalo Wild Wings is reconsidering their deal:
"We are disappointed to learn of Steve’s misrepresentations regarding the events of September 11, 2001. We are currently re-evaluating our relationship with Steve pending a review of all the facts."
In 2014, India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) provided body mass index (BMI) guidelines for flight crew members, and now Air India is taking action against those who haven't complied. The DGCA also imposed rules for medical check-ups:
"The Initial Medical Examination shall be conducted upon induction. Subsequently, cabin crew shall undergo medical examination once every four years till the age of 40, once every two years till the age of 50 and yearly thereafter."
Before the guidelines were published, some Air India flight attendants ("air hostesses") refused the fitness test and instead asked the airline to pay for gym memberships.
Now, Air India, with the highest percentage of attendants over 40, has grounded 130 of its 3,5000 crew members. Most are women. A 51-year-old attendant told The Washington Post, "It is incredibly upsetting that working women are being targeted. This is not a modelling job; we are not working a catwalk."
The airline is stressing job requirements, not appearance. One official said, "People who are fitter can respond quicker and more efficiently in case of any untoward situation."
But Air India has a history of focusing on looks. In 2004, the personnel manager told BBC:
"Looks matter in this line of work, and therefore we are giving it a lot of importance. When we review a candidate, we look at the skin, teeth and height. There should be no scars, acne, or any major marks on the face. The candidate should have a pleasing personality, should be able to carry him or herself with confidence and be ready to serve others. After all, that is the job of an air hostess and a male steward."
Although crew members will stay employed, they miss out on benefits of flight travel.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is doing his best to rebuild confidence in his country's economy. He delivered the opening session at the World Economic Forum, the ninth "Annual Meeting of the New Champions" with more than 1,500 people representing more than 90 countries.
Seven video quotes may show a representation of the speech, although we don't know the criteria for selection. The first is below:
According to The Financial Times, despite the government's focus on progress, critics accuse authorities as they "sought to prop up stocks by banning large share sales, detaining journalists and punishing 'rumour mongers' as well as orchestrating state-directed buying."
Li has tried to put China's financial position into perspective: "The fluctuations in global financial markets recently are a continuation of the 2008 global financial crisis." The Financial Times summarizes Li's position:
"Although he did not outline any further stimulus measures or policy reform initiatives, Mr Li did say he was confident in future growth because he saw a 'massive wave of mass entrepreneurship and innovation across the nation.'"
Li did acknowledge difficulties:
"China is an economy that is closely integrated with the international market. Given the weak growth of the global economy, China cannot stay unaffected and the deep-seated problems that have built up over the years are also being exposed."
But he repeated that the Chinese economy is in a "proper range," which The Guardian calls, "a favourite phrase."
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, called for quotas for European countries to accept more than 160,000 refugees. Juncker is encouraging consistent immigration policies and warning sanctions for countries that don't take their fair share.
Juncker used emotional appeals in his state-of-the-union address to the European parliament:
"Today it is Europe that is sought as a place of refuge and exile. It is Europe today that represents a beacon of hope, a haven of stability in the eyes of women and men in the Middle East and in Africa. That is something to be proud of and not something to fear."
When speaking of the potentially 500,000 refugees who may cross borders, Juncker gave more examples:
"Europe is the baker in Kos who gives away his bread to hungry and weary souls. Europe is the students in Munich and in Passau who bring clothes for the new arrivals at the train station. Europe is the policeman in Austria who welcomes exhausted refugees upon crossing the border. This is the Europe I want to live in."
Although Germany, France, and Italy support the plan, other EU members are reluctant. Juncker used Ukraine as an example of a country that may seek assistance in the future. But he did not convince everyone. Slovak prime minister said, "We won’t bow down to Germany and France. Quotas are irrational." The plan also faces resistance from Poland and the Czech Republic, whose Europe prime minister called quotes "nonsensical."
The UK has been a notable resistor to accepting migrants. Britain's Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament chastised the prime minister's lack of cooperation:
“By refusing to take a single refugee that has arrived on Europe’s shores, the UK government is shirking our international duty and lowering Britain’s standing in the world. Of course we must do more to tackle the causes of the refugee crisis at source, but we cannot turn a blind eye to the human tragedy unfolding right now on our continent.”
Prime Minister Cameron has defended his financial contributions and focus on resettlement.
Two pilot associations are in the news for strikes this week: Vereinigung Cockpit (a German pilots' union for Lufthansa and Germanwings) and the Independent Pilots Association (for UPS).
The Lufthansa pilots have extended their strike—their 13th in the past 18 months—to a second day, causing more than 1,000 flight cancellations. In a press release, the company stated its willingness to negotiate with the union:
"Lufthansa remains willing to resume its negotiations on all open collective labor agreement items with the VC’s Group Collective Labor Agreement Committee at any time. 'Our goal is still to work with the VC to find a joint solution to all the open CLA issues through the negotiating process,' confirms Dr. Bettina Volkens, Chief Officer Corporate Human Resources of Deutsche Lufthansa AG."
The UPS pilots took out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal to express their dissatisfaction with union negotiations. The ad claims, "UPS management has stalled and delayed, unnecessarily prolonging our contract negotiations."
In a statement, UPS management clarifies that, although the union is threatening to strike, it won't happen. The first three paragraphs of the statement follow:
“UPS continues to negotiate in good faith for a contract that is good for our employees, our customers and our company, and we are confident these negotiations will be completed without disruption in our service.
“Despite the IPA’s announcement, there is no real threat of a strike. Such authorization votes are routine during negotiations in the airline industry, but they are legally irrelevant under the Railway Labor Act, the U.S. labor law that governs airlines.
“Under the RLA, a strike is not possible unless authorized by the National Mediation Board. Even then, there are a series of fail-safes, including presidential and congressional intervention, designed to prevent an interruption in operations. . . ."
Three United Airlines executives left the company because of an investigation into whether unprofitable flights were added to suit NY/NJ Port Authority Chairman David Samson. The question is whether United executives exchanged flights to Samson's home for funding from the Port Authority.
The company gave this statement about the departures of CEO Jeff Smisek, the vice president of communications and government affairs, and the senior vice president of corporate and government affairs:
"The departures announced today are in connection with the company's previously disclosed internal investigation related to the federal investigation associated with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The investigations are ongoing and the company continues to cooperate with the government."
The statement was also part of a longer press release, which focused on newly appointed CEO Oscar Munoz. In a message to employees, Munoz expressed his hopes for the company's future.
Hillary Clinton's long-awaited apology came yesterday, and it's a hot news story today. In an ABC TV interview with David Muir, Clinton said,
"What I had done was allowed, it was above board. But in retrospect, as I look back at it now, even though it was allowed, I should have used two accounts. One for personal, one for work-related emails. That was a mistake. I’m sorry about that. I take responsibility."
This is most direct apology yet. In an MSNBC interview last week, she said,
"At the end of the day I am sorry that this has been confusing to people."
Clinton is also acknowledging that she could have handled the situation better:
"I do think I could have and should have done a better job answering questions earlier. I really didn’t perhaps appreciate the need to do that."
Her decision comes after an investigation found two emails to contain classified information. The Clinton campaign said no emails were marked classified at the time, and they dispute what is considered classified.
Of course, she is also trying to rebuild her image. In a recent questionnaire, respondents most commonly associated the word "liar" with Clinton ("dishonest" was second).
Perspectives on the whether and how much to raise the U.S. minimum wage are heating up. A recent National Labor Relations Board ruling made it easier for fast-food workers to negotiate with companies, even if they are contractors or work for a franchisee. And the minimum wage in New York State will increase to $9.00 in December 2015 and likely to $15 for fast food workers.
The upcoming presidential election also has heightened interest in the topic. A New York Times Editorial Board op-ed describes some of the Republican candidates' arguments: "none of which make much sense." Popular opinions include the following, according to the article:
The National Restaurant Association has been an active voice in the debate. In an article, the organization points to potential negative impacts on young workers and the industry.
When Google changes its logo, everyone seems to weigh in. Some criticism has been harsh. The author of a New Yorker article, "Why You Hate Google's New Logo," writes, "Whenever a brand wants to freshen itself up, you start hearing talk about 'clean lines,' as if a few gorgeous, old-fashioned letters were keeping us in the Dark Ages."
The new logo is sleeker, looking as though it dropped a few pounds and got a tummy tuck.
The author's disappointment continues:
The new logo retains the rainbow of colors but sheds the grownup curlicues: it now evokes children’s refrigerator magnets, McDonald’s French fries, Comic Sans. Google took something we trusted and filed off its dignity. Now, in its place, we have an insipid “G,” an owl-eyed “oo,” a schoolroom “g,” a ho-hum “l,” and a demented, showboating “e.”
In a blog post, the company describes the logo as "simple, uncluttered, colorful, friendly" and touts its visibility on "even the tiniest screens."
With two sentences, Harry Styles of One Direction contributed to SeaWorld's continuing decline. The trouble started with the movie Blackfish, which exposed the park's treatment of orca whales. Now, Credit Suisse analysts point to new culprits resulting in "a 400% spike in mentions and 13% increase in negative commentary month-over-month:"
"Brand impairment issues were magnified in July from allegations that a SeaWorld employee acted as an undercover member of activist group Peta, and after One Direction lead singer, Harry Styles, urged all of his fans to boycott SeaWorld during a concert in San Diego."
After Styles' performance, the company issued this statement:
"Dear Harry, we’ve seen a concert clip of you urging your fans not to visit SeaWorld. We want you to know we love dolphins too. We care for the animals in our parks like we would our own family.
"We are committed to making sure their lives are enriching and they are continually engaged socially, mentally and physically. And, we also care for animals in the wild.
"We invite you to see for yourself, and then decide based on facts. We are happy to open our doors, take you behind the scenes, and have our trainers and vets answer any questions you have."
New CEO Joel Manby acknowledged damage to the brand:
"We realize we have much work ahead of us to recover more of our attendance base, increase revenue and improve our performance as returning to historical performance levels will take time and investment. On the reputation side, early feedback on our campaign has been positive. However, we recognize that fully resolving our brand challenges in California will require sustained focus and commitment to correct misinformation."
Management of the Auschwitz museum in Poland say they were just trying to cool off visitors from the heat, but people took offense to the sprinkler system they say reminded them of gas chambers used during the Holocaust. A visitor from Israel said, "As soon as I got off the bus I walked into the shower contraption. I was in shock. It was a punch to the gut."
A spokesperson for the museum told TIME, "Because of the extreme heat wave we have experienced in August in Poland, mist sprinklers which cool the air were placed near the entrance to the Museum. The mist sprinkles do not look like showers and the fake showers installed by Germans inside some of the gas chambers were not used to deliver gas into them."
He also said, "The safety and health of visitors are our priority during the period of extreme heat. Cooling air have been really helpful to visitors in this difficult situation."
Now that the jokes about increasing divorces have subsided, Ashley Madison is in the news again because company CEO Noel Biderman will step down. Ashley Madison is the online dating site that fell victim to a computer hack along with 37 million users who were exposed for cheating on their partners and spouses. The site's tag line is "Life is short. Have an affair."
Although the company promised anonymity, it couldn't protect users from having their emails revealed in an easily searchable database. Further damaging the company's credibility, thousands of Ashley Madison emails in the system showed that many of the female profiles on the site weren't real.
In a statement, the company says decision for the CEO to leave is by "mutual agreement."