"What's That Smell? Is It a Burning Bridge?"

A good friend of mine…and amazing designer…Brian Springfield once said this statement to a colleague of ours and I found it so funny that I’ve shared it again and again in different settings. This time, it came to me when reading the popularized New York Times Op Ed piece from last week. The submission was written by an ex-employee of Goldman Sachs who, over his 12-year stint with the global financial firm, became disenchanted with the ‘modus operandi.’ Have you read it?

If you haven’t, in a nutshell, Greg Smith (which I am guessing is an alias) said that by the end of his career there, he felt the company had morphed from being client-oriented to profits focused. He also shared that at one point, he’d been one of the biggest advocates for Goldman and had even recruited and mentored incoming candidates. Apparently, Greg had excelled at his career, managing an asset base of more than a trillion dollars by the time he left.

Essentially, Greg chose to unleash his anger while getting revenge on his former employer. And as you can imagine, his sharing of disrespect for the financial industry was fueled even further by the already-present disdain for the financial industry and movements such as Occupy Wall Street and ‘I am the 99%.’

It’s interesting to listen to the varied opinions about his actions, and from a public relations perspective, it’s even more fascinating…from both sides:

  • Does Greg ever wish to work in the financial industry again? Perhaps he’s ‘set’ for life, but if not, I hope he’s focusing on a career change.
  • Was it really necessary to defame Goldman Sachs and its leaders?
  • Was this merely a case of ‘growing up’ in a corporate environment? Aren’t the majority of our corporate conglomerates focused on profits anyway?
  • What did Greg actually gain from doing this…and could the same result have been achieved in other ways?

…and on the flip side:

  • Shame on Goldman Sachs, right? How is it that large corporations so quickly forget the customer…when it was the customer who made them what they are today?
  • Why didn’t they counsel and try to retain such a valuable employee?
  • What about Goldman Sachs’ response to ‘the world’?

Essentially, this is a PR nightmare on all fronts. Because here is the bottom line:  What goes around, comes around. There is a reason these cliché’d statements were coined in the first place, and they’re not forgotten in the professional realm. If anything, they’re magnified by the sheer presence of the organization, its reputation and the collective reputation of its employees.

To me, the public relations moral of this story is to treat people with respect at all times, or at least as often as possible. What do you think?