Just Deal With It!
When are people going to wake up, smell the coffee and deal with problems in a direct manner? The mess at Penn State is just the latest example of how not dealing with something makes it worse.
There is just no excuse for increasing your risk by trying to ignore a problem, minimize it or, stupidly, hide it. Most problems do not just go away, they just fester and get worse. The true scope of the problem will come out. Hiding a problem is just not possible and makes you look guilty of something that may look worse than it is.
Just deal with it!
We all know that none of us is perfect, so we can accept when mistakes are made. Admit it. Apologize. Fix it. That’s the only way to minimize the damage and move ahead.
From a crisis communications point of view, the problems you don’t want to read about are the ones you should probably just disclose. As long as you are fixing it, put the story out. That is your best chance of not reading much about it. You might lose the battle, but it will help you win the war.
When you’re talking about it, be realistic about the size of the problem – and if you don’t know, just say that. How much better off would BP be if it hadn’t tried to minimize how much oil was leaking in the Gulf of Mexico? In the early stages they really had no idea what was happening at that depth. Just tell the truth. Sometimes “We don’t know” is the only right answer. Just make sure you say you’re working hard to get that answer and make sure you share it when you do know.
A problem, particularly in this day and age, is not going to stay hidden. What the heck were the people at Penn State thinking? This is a sad story that could have been avoided if someone had stood up and done the right thing when the problem came to light. It sounds like a call to the police to share knowledge of a crime would have minimized the damage in so many ways. It isn’t a crime or a crisis to report witnessing a crime. What were people thinking?
Just deal with it!
Seriously, I don’t get it. I’ll admit that my formal education never included an ethics class and I definitely don’t have a law degree. What I did get was some basic homeschooling on this subject from Mom and Dad. They consistently taught me the difference between right and wrong, the benefits of honesty over dishonesty and reality versus fantasy.
My dad also believed, strongly, that a job worth doing is worth doing right and right now. He always lived that way and taught that lesson through repeated example. That lesson has never failed me. Ignoring it has always proved costly.
Common sense certainly needs to become more common. This isn’t rocket science. History has many examples of small problems getting huge because they were ignored. Is there really anyone who doesn’t have a dozen examples of how an attempt to cover something up or ignore it just makes it worse? And, how can anyone in this day and age think they can hide a problem forever?
It isn’t that hard. Just deal with it!
What the heck am I missing? Why does transparency seem to be so hard for some people to grasp?