Corporate Contrition and Course Correction
It’s never easy to say you’re sorry. This is as true for large corporations as it is for individuals. In the past week or two, I’ve noticed several examples of corporate contrition, some done well and some done badly. Let’s take a look at some recent apologies from the business world.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Apple’s neglect of the Mac Pro and other professional hardware. The same day I wrote the article, Apple had a small press conference with veteran tech journalists, where they acknowledged their failings. This was huge. Apple is not known for corporate contrition, or any kind of humility for that matter. It’s always been a Steve-knows-best kind of company. But someone in Apple’s upper echelons finally realized that, while the Mac makes up a small percentage of the company’s bottom line, it also caters to the vanguard of tech users. By recommitting themselves to the Mac, Apple can hopefully stop the hemorrhaging of professional users whose influence extends throughout the tech industry.
Later that week, Canonical announced that their popular Linux distribution, Ubuntu, was abandoning its in-house user interface Unity. Instead they were adopting the industry standard GNOME interface. They were also ditching Mir, the compositing engine behind Unity, and discontinuing their attempts to put Ubuntu on phones and tablets. In other words, they were completely refuting everything they’ve done in the last five years or so. Like many other tech billionaires, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth is not known for his humility. So for him to announce such a major change in Ubuntu’s future takes a lot of contrition indeed.
Last week, a 69 year old doctor was asked to give up his seat for a United Airlines employee. He refused, so security guards brutally dragged him off the plane. His fellow passengers caught the whole thing on camera. United screwed up big time, but their attempted apology made things worse. The CEO first put out a lukewarm statement expressing regret at the passenger being “re-accommodated”. He then sent an email to United employees, stating the passenger was “belligerent”, despite video evidence to the contrary. When a real apology came a few days later, it reeked of desperation and damage control, rather than true corporate contrition.
What are some of the best and worst examples of corporate contrition you can think of? Let me know in the comment section.