In my experience, there are
certain wrongs that consumers rarely
reconcile or accept. These tend to
be around unfathomable social and
environmental injustices, hypocrisy
and irresponsibility. Injustices towards
innocent children and animals are
This is where Ingraham’s jurors
sit in social justice court. This fervent
belief prevails even in the social
hierarchy of prisons. Convicts who
have committed crimes against
children are especially reviled.
We as consumers also recoil
when we our religious, spiritual,
sexual orientation or cultural beliefs
are openly mocked, bashed or
disrespected. Playing with a person’s
sense of self or dignity is wrong. No
one wants to be judged, bullied or have
a belief thrust upon you. This is where
If you happen to step into this brand
death roll, don’t aggravate further. Take
immediate responsibility, genuinely
apologize and be sure you do so before
any boycotts commence. &
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is a specialist in
innovative enterprise risk management
methods and implementation techniques.
It was more than 25 years ago when Sinéad O’ Connor appeared on Saturday Night Live as a musical guest. She
sang a rendition of Bob Marley’s “War” as a form of protest
what ethical consumerism is all about.
It is not moral peacocking but a form
of consumer activism that demands
‘positive moral behavior’ by an
Boycotters know that when your
brand is put at risk, it will force a
conversation with them, and hopefully
not a fight. Those who ignore this
variation of ‘brandjacking’ risk
But what specific moral behaviors,
when breached, can lead to such
deathblows? It is confusing as we see
other celebrities or public figures
survive sex scandals or crimes. In
fact, often they don’t just survive the
scandals, they even thrive afterwards.
What is different here?
A corporation is an implied
member of our moral community,
and it has social responsibilities. Its
words, promises, statements, even
insinuations, reflect its brand character.
Consumers naturally gravitate toward
organizations with like values, social,
moral standards or ideals.
We expect companies to know right
from wrong or, more importantly,
what we consider to be right and
wrong. This is where it gets tricky:
reading your consumer and not
underestimating their moral code.
She apologized, but I suspect little
forgiveness will prevail for what is
now seen as a moral failing towards a
teenage victim of a horrific trauma.
These events may be deathblows.
O’Connor and Ingraham damaged a
specific social and moral nerve. They
crossed an offensive line. And once
crossed, it tends to be a brand killer.
Your brand is what connects with
consumers. Ethical behavior marks
your brand. When consumers no
longer want to be associated with you,
they reject your brand and what you
It is no surprise an effective boycott
attacks a brand and not just the
organization’s bottom line. This is
against the Roman Catholic Church.
SNL had no prior knowledge that
O’Connor would conclude the song
by holding up a photo of the Pope,
tearing it to pieces and saying, “Fight
the real enemy.”
The audience went silent. Within a
year of her protest, O’Connor had all
but vanished from the music scene.
When we look at the recent public
outrage and advertiser mass exodus
from Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox
News, I sense that Ingraham may
experience a similar end. Her audience
too went silent in shock after seeing
her mock David Hogg, a Parkland
shooting survivor, for getting rejection
letters from colleges.
BY ROBERTO CENICEROS
were persistent yet resilient under
extremely difficult circumstances.
They found alternate ways to move
forward. Like Lincoln, they possessed
the ability to slow down, take stock of
their emotions and not immediately
react, especially when the stakes grew
Today, many of us yearn for steady,
well-thought-out political leadership
from Washington D.C. Instead we
get distracted governance, along with
mega-doses of gloating, porn-star
accusations, Putin praising, sensational
staff shakeups and the like.
It distracts from time that could be
spent leading on important issues such
as those impacting workers’ comp,
including opioids, the potential creation
of infrastructure jobs and health care.
Koehn’s book may make one yearn
even more for courageous and steady
leadership. On the other hand, it offers
highly interesting examples of how to
do it well. &
ROBERTO CENICEROS is senior editor at
Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National
Workers’ Compensation and Disability
Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at
President Abraham Lincoln penned a letter to General George Meade detailing disappointment with the
general’s Civil War performance. But Lincoln never
Ernest Shackleton, hailed in previous
business-management books for
leading his shipwrecked and isolated
crew off Antarctic ice flows.
The other biographies feature
abolitionist Frederick Douglass;
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, imprisoned
by the Gestapo and murdered for
opposing the Third Reich; and scientist
and author Rachel Carson, who raced
against cancer to finish her manuscript
on the dangers of mass pesticide use.
They shared an ability to focus
without allowing lesser problems to
distract them from their larger missions.
They led with their humanity,
often with an understanding of their
personal weaknesses. That allowed
them to deploy empathy when
motivating and supporting others.
Empathy as a leadership trait would
mesh well with the injured-worker
advocacy movement gaining popularity
among some of today’s savviest risk
It’s also a style that could help
show the world workers’ comp can
genuinely care for injured workers
even in the face of a system that doesn’t
always promote that.
The protagonists in Koehn’s book
characteristic shared by five historical
figures described in “Forged in Crisis:
The Power of Courageous Leadership
in Turbulent Times.”
Written by Harvard Business
School historian Nancy Koehn, the
book offers management nuggets for
anyone in leadership roles, including
risk managers and workers’ comp
professionals. The book delivers those
nuggets through five biographies of
people who faced personal challenges
and their own human limitations.
Yet they persevered against
extremely difficult circumstances to
attain their goals and help guide others
out of danger.
The book includes the story of
delivered it, not wanting to alienate
Meade at a critical time.
It was typical of Lincoln, taking
time to evaluate his own emotions,
thinking through the consequences
and sometimes doing nothing rather
than acting hastily.
Consider that in contrast to
President Donald Trump’s style of
broadcasting seemingly impulsive,
emotional-laden Twitter tirades.
Washington D.C. leadership, or lack
of it, impacts workers’ compensation.
I’ll get back to that.
But first, Lincoln’s reflective style
of understanding his own emotional
reaction to events before acting
on critical matters is a behavioral
BY JOANNA MAKOMASKI