Published on: February 13, 2014
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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
Just a couple of quick thoughts this morning about the mess that Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, created for himself the other day when he did a town hall meeting with employees and announced that the company was cutting back on 401 (k) benefits in part because of healthcare costs, and specifically referred to "two distressed babies" that had cost more than a million dollars to care for.
He didn't use any names, but it didn't matter. The comments went viral almost immediately, and one of the moms went public to defend her family; her child was born prematurely in 2012 and required treatment in a neonatal unit.
There are several lessons here.
For one thing, you don't single people out in public. And you especially don't single out babies. He didn't say it, but the implication was that the company would have been better off financially if the babies had not been covered by insurance, or if the parents had gone bankrupt covering the expenses on their own.
Is that really the message you want to send to your workforce?
Healthcare is a complicated subject, and there are plenty of legitimate criticisms that can be leveled at how it has been handled by both parties and both the executive and legislative branches of government. I'm not going to get into that here, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that when people have distressed babies, there ought to be a mechanism by which those children are nursed to health. Period.
AOL had $2.2 billion in revenue last year, and as it should, it provides healthcare to its employees. You really want to start picking on "distressed babies?"
The other lesson is how fast the whole thing became public. This may have been an internal AOL issue, but it quickly became a public spectacle, and Tim Armstrong has nobody to blame but himself. That's a good lesson for every CEO.
Since the whole thing hit the fan, Armstrong has apologized and reversed his 401(k) decision. But it may be too little, too late.
He put his foot in his own mouth, and he left a bad taste in everybody else's.
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: