Can Bad Manners Can Kill Your Social Mission?

I want to use the story of what happened when I contacted one company for an interview for Cause Capitalism to point out that the way you treat people is a clearer indication of your company’s social mission than who you hire to launch a fancy cause marketing or employee-volunteer program. I’m not hurt by it because I understand the pulls of running a business, but it’s a good reminder that the behavior of employees (and CEOs) paints the clearest picture of a company’s ethos.

Here’s what happened. Through a referral, I contacted a really wonderful social enterprise to ask for interview. The next day I get an affirmative and we schedule the interview. Smooth sailing. But what followed was a cancellation, run-around, pass off to another colleague and no-show on the interview. Again, these things happen and they don’t negate many years of the company’s good work. But it leaves a sour taste and makes me question how they treat their employees–who are a keystone of the social enterprise.

Seth Godin writes about how the front line of a company’s customer service impacts its image and councils companies to free up their employees to make customer-pleasing decisions instead of by-the-book decisions (Zappos has built a business around this). When Andrew Warner interviewed Seth for Mixergy he talked about the strong caliber of Seth’s colleague Ishita¬†Gupta¬†whom he’d worked with to arrange the interview. She had gone entirely above the minimum obligations of her job and Andrew wanted to know how Seth had found or developed an employee like her. Seth writes blogs and books about how the cumulative actions of a company are the true relayers of its image–not ads or awards–and he behaves in accordance, which trickles down to the people he works with like Ishita, who in turn wows Andrew, filling him with more respect for Seth’s work.

But back to the story. The company has a youthful shining star who leads its social media. Knowing I was set to interview a company spokesman, he followed up to see how it went. Upon hearing it didn’t go, he took the initiative to contact the colleague who had dropped the ball. New to the company, the youthful star clearly gets the trickle down effect of a businesses image. He did more to promote its commitment to people than a 60-minute interview with a top-level spokesman would have. I sent him an email thanking him for his help because smart behavior deserves to be acknowledged. It’s not just good manners anymore, it’s good business.

What company do you like more because of their people? What interactions have attracted you to a company or put you off of one?


Leave a comment
  1. Sloane Berrent February 23, 2010 at 2:42 am #

    Absolutely. We BOTH know how much things can seem like one thing from the inside and be something completely different from the other side. It’s much better to be real through and through, that sincerity will always shine through.

  2. John Bush February 23, 2010 at 6:42 am #

    Love it, we’re leading the charge with organic advertising it’s all related. Different branches of the same tree, …selling products, ideas, or services that benefit humanity as opposed to bull$***. Kudos.

  3. admin February 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    Sloane: it’s so funny how sincerity can’t be faked in the long-term. A person or company’s real ethos will also unveil. Plus, it’s more fun to be good-hearted!

    John: thanks. Do you feel your company lives its mission in its everyday actions?