There are going to be times in life when, unprovoked psychologically, we carelessly express something that we shouldn’t.

Then there are other times where we are triggered emotionally, enter a negative state psychologically, and respond in a manner that leaves people thinking “did they really just say that?”

That is not a reputation any of us, as individuals or an organization, want to have or have to then problem solve.

Yet it happens.

If you don’t notice this in your personal life, observe the news and you will see this type of problem reported on regularly. You will also notice media personalities, even if they are commentators, stray too far out on a limb and then saw off the branch, hurting their reputation.

Today, I have a comment for you made by Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, whose reputation has already suffered to the point that he lost his position as chair of the company and now is having a segment of his compensation package withheld until he problem solves some of the crisis he has helped create and escalate into more expensive consequences.

Let’s take a look at his recent statement, keeping in mind that two of his company’s aircraft crashed, killing 346 people, devastating families and endangering other passengers, families, pilots, crew and their families.

“We don’t ‘sell’ safety; that’s not our business model,” Muilenburg said.

Say what?

“We don’t ‘sell’ safety; that’s not our business model.”

Please point out to me any passenger, pilot or crew member, or anyone who books a flight for someone else, who doesn’t expect safety to be part of the agreement and relationship.

I understand what Muilenburg was talking about “business model.” I also believe he believes what he is saying yet let’s be honest, what airline executive makes that type of ridiculous, absent-minded comment, completely devoid of social awareness?

That could be, maybe should have been a “fireable” offense for the reputation damage escalation yet Muilenburg survived that outrageous error that could come back to cost Boeing dearly, not only in the court of public opinion but financially and in a court of law with attorneys of the aforementioned victims’ families.

What if a pilot made such a comment, or an airline attendant, before takeoff or upon landing?

Say what?

If Muilenburg or Boeing wish to make such a comment, that is their choice.

It is, however, unquestionably foolish and a clear impediment to any sort of problem solving, relationship repair, trust rebuilding, reputation improvement and in Boeing’s and Muilenburg’s case, successful crisis communications.

That type of mindset and speech is an impenetrable, unconquerable barrier to crisis management.

Oh my, say what?

Michael Toebe is a specialist for reputation and crisis — communications and risk management, serving organizations and high-profile individuals. He has been published in Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, Training Industry, Corporate Compliance Insights and the New York Law Journal. He publishes the newsletter, the Reputation Times. He can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Writing on reputation, risk, decision making and crisis in business, politics, sports, entertainment, higher ed, healthcare and social media.

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