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How to look good when things go down the pan
11:35am Tuesday 24th December 2013 in News
CHRISTMAS is supposed to be the season of good will to all, but one category of people always seems to be left out.
Yes, it’s the people who are in charge of great big organisations that are caught doing something wrong, and if you’re one of those folk I’d like to extend the hand of friendship just this once.
Perhaps you run a company that’s supposed to clean medical facilities, but you’ve been caught leaving them ankle deep in dust, used syringes and mucky dressings, and with blood and worse splattered on the floors, walls and ceilings.
Perhaps you’re in charge of a very rich water company whose sewer pipes have left yet another hapless customer’s back garden looking like the aftermath of a jailhouse dirty protest.
Or perhaps you’re in charge of deciding whether it’s safe to put violent offenders back on the streets, and you wrongly believed a man nicknamed ‘Chainsaw’ when he promised: “Nope, no more chainsawing for me, guv, honest.”
I know I usually write nasty things about you, and suggest you should suffer punishments such as being impaled on a big stake while the rest of us pelt you with bricks or take tyre irons to your kneecaps, but it’s Christmas, so let’s put these differences aside for at least a few days.
As a present, the best thing I feel I can offer is help with the statement you’re going to have to come up with the next time your organisation is embroiled in a calamity.
It doesn’t matter what sort of calamity, as all such statements are basically identical.
The first thing you’ll want to include is an apology that isn’t really an apology.
Say, for example, that you’ve inadvertently caused a dozen rabid weasels to emerge from somebody’s toilet and bite them on the bottom, or sent a serial killer to live in the annexe of a care home.
On no account should you apologise for what you’ve done. Instead, say: “We apologise for any inconvenience/stress caused.” This has the advantage of looking superficially like an apology while admitting no potentially expensive liability.
Your next step should be to stress that your customers’/clients’ welfare is your top priority. It isn’t, obviously – your personal wealth, your villa in Florida and getting your spoiled brats into the right schools are your greatest priorities, but you have to pretend.
You should also say something like: “It is clear that we have failed to live up to our usual excellent standards.”
That’s a load of nonsense, too, of course. Such disasters and lousiness are your usual standards, but you can’t go admitting that.
If you’ve followed this guide so far, now is the point at which you should pledge to take decisive action. One word in particular is your friend: “Robust.” It is a wonderful word with remarkable properties. It makes your statement sound all dynamic and meaningful.
Your hospital’s sewn a dog’s leg on to a patient by mistake? Don’t just promise to investigate – promise to robustly investigate.
Senior colleague caught upside-down in a wheely-bin full of cocaine at a party attended by several young men and women of easy virtue, three donkeys in gas masks and the cast of Tarka the Otter on Ice?
Don’t just pursue inquiries – robustly pursue them.
Obviously, you won’t be punishing anybody in any way, shape or form because they’re a good friend and a reliable source of ketamine, but the public don’t have to know that.
Finally, remember to conclude your statement with the pledge that lessons will be learned and it won’t happen again.
Oh, and keep the whole document to use as a template for the next one.
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