Bank boss forced to apologize

Hey manager, think about this before you do that. What might “that” may be? Great question. It could be anything that could impact your team, any kind of decision or behavior that could have unforeseen consequences not just for you but for your employees as well.

Case in point…

Recently, the CEO of a major UK bank had to apologize to 75,000 employees after reports of his extra-marital affair hit the news. Antonio Horta-Osorio sent out the embarrassing memo confession last week, ostensibly apologizing for “damage caused by reports” that he was “spending time” with a mistress when he was supposed to be hard at work in Singapore.

“…personal life is obviously a private matter … I deeply regret being the cause of so much adverse publicity and the damage that has been done to the group’s reputation…” Osorio said.

And that brings the key right into the harsh spotlight. Negative publicity landed on the company due to the boss’ dalliances. Did his specific actions directly hurt the company? No. But the revelations about his activities hurt the company brand in the eyes of people who matter … and that’s something that can bite and keep on biting.

This is more than the law of unintended consequences. This is about understanding which actions can and will create ripple effects and what those effects may be if and when those actions are discovered. In other words, there are lines that can’t be crossed, even if you “think” nobody else is getting hurt. Decisions that should not be made quickly or without full review because there are other folks on the hook as well.

Management comes with responsibilities, and sometimes those responsibilities include limitations on behavior that might otherwise be acceptable in certain circumstances … from a business standpoint. In this case, the loss of Horta-Osorio’s reputation also damaged the reputation of the company at large. Fair? Not really. But fact? Definitely.

That’s not to say you should allow possible negative consequences to stop you from making a call you NEED to make to better the business. But it should give you pause before you make a call you WANT to make that will (mostly) benefit you.

David Milberg is an entrepreneur and financial analyst from NYC.