Nortel’s PR Dilemma

So what should Nortel do from a public relations perspective about the Joel Hackney “incident” (aka parking lot/road rage). So far, the media coverage of Hackey’s admission of being guility of false imprisonment, assault on a female and communicating threats have been limited to a few outlets in North Carolina this blog (the number of page views on the post written on Feb. 22 have been four to five times average daily traffic, while there have been a flurry of comments).

From what I can tell, Nortel has not issued a comment on Hackney’s admission of guilt but there have been sugestions Hackney has directed all media inquiries to Nortel. So does Nortel issue a statement? Or does the company stay quiet while it tries to determine what action, if any, to take against Hackney? Clearly, Nortel CEO Mike Zafirovski needs to figure out how whether the whole thing will quickly blow over, or whether it has the potential to become one of those issues that could blossom into something more serious if Nortel fails to do something sooner rahter than later.

From a public relations perspective, if Nortel chooses to say nothing then what does tha tsuggest to employees, particularly those who’ve written comments on this blog about Nortel’s code of conduct. But if Nortel makes a statement, they risk making this “incident” a bigger deal. I imagine there are some serious PR meetings happening this weekend, which could make Monday an interesting news day. Stay tuned.

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19 Responses to “Nortel’s PR Dilemma”

  1. A Disappointed Shareholder Says:

    Where is the Chief Ethics Officer in all of this? Let’s see how she spins this in light of Mike Z’s “Zero Tolerance” for ethics issues. Maybe this isn’t an ethics issue, but it surely is a character and judgement issue…he needs to go!

  2. xnortel Says:

    Someone has to look at that!

  3. nortel employee Says:

    I think she quit last yr.

  4. Anon Says:

    She resigned, but was replaced by Bob Bartzokas

  5. Another employee Says:

    Her resignation was announced Nov 9 2006

  6. Another xNortel Says:

    Nortel has preached ethics in a way I have never seen before but apparently it does not apply to the upper management. Ethics is not only doing the right thing for the company and its customers but it is doing the right thing in everyday life. An executive should be held more accountable because they should set the benchmark on ethics. When something like this happens it reflects on the entire company not just that one person. Nortel’s name has been in the toilet since the accounting scandal and this does nothing to help emerge Nortel as a world class company it only helps degrade the name Nortel that much more.

  7. ...Executives Gone Wild... Says:

    The timing of Joel’s arrest and resignation of Nortel’s Chief Ethics Officer, Susan Shepard, is interesting.

    Joel was “doing what [he] wants” (assault / etc) to that female student in October 2006. Susan Shepard tendered her resignation on November 6, 2006.

    Hmmm.. a coincidence?

    Joel, being the smart executive “Tarzan” that he is, referred reporters to Nortel PR. Nortel spokesWOMAN (good one!), Ann Fuller, stated that “The company is aware of Hackney’s criminal case but regards it as a personal matter. Joel has our support and confidence.”
    (Source: http://www.newsobserver.com/104/story/546196.html)

    Since it would be unfair to deny Joel from “doing what he wants”, I think Hollywood might have a TV show in the works: EXECUTIVES GONE WILD.

    The star of the show is, of course, Joel, but the plot is profound. Joel will drive his Audi SUV around college campuses looking for an unsuspecting “extra” (I suppose “victim” is the correct word in the legal sense, but remember this is Hollywood).

    Once the “extra” (okay, “victim”) is spotted, he’ll quickly swerve his Audi SUV in front of their vehicle, exit his car, begin the Howard Dean shriek and yell, “I’m doing what I want!”. The face of the “extra” will be grabbed sometimes using two fingers and sometimes four, but rarely all five fingers… there has to be variety. Variety is the spice of life, and Hollywood and Nortel Executives know this to be true.

    This just might be the turn-around that Nortel has been waiting for.

  8. An employee Says:

    So the story I hear is that lwhen leaving an event cars were filing out, and there was a dispute over whoose turn it was to exit. She followed him down several floors, horn blaring all the way. He stopped and confronted her.

    Now if there is more to the story than that, then so be it, and let the chips fall where they may.

    If not, I really don’t see the issue. It’s not a Nortel thing. If I blow up at the damn dog that barks all day next door, and finally do something about it should that impact my job? I think not. Should I be held accountable for my actions? YOU BET!

  9. mavsmania Says:

    How ’bout this…why did the Chief Ethics Officer, Susan Sheppard mysteriously resign on such short notice right about the time of this alleged incident??? Right or wrong, customers as well as Women’s advocates groups are SURE not to sit back on their heels on this one. What if this were your daughter, wife, friend? Would you work for this man after this incident? If you were a potential customer, would you feel right doing business with someone of a lesser-ethics standard than what is expected of the workforce. NO! If you knew the pharmacist you always deal with sometimes slipped the wrong medecine or a generic drug in your prescription and you paid for the real thing, would you trust him again???
    Take your time and think of these things.
    Respectfully…

  10. not_naive_employee Says:

    Interesting, in the telephone interview Joel said “It’s such a minor thing that I haven’t been involved in it” and his attorny said “Mr. Hackney regrets this unfortunate incident took place”. No word that he’s regretting what he did. No, he just regrets that it happened, but not that he threatened her and grabbed her face. JH still seems to think that he was right in what he was doing. Oh my oh my …
    The Nortel spokeswoman said “Joel has our support and confidence”. Well, he definitly hasn’t my support and confidence and I guess many other employees – especially the women – share this view.

  11. notfrank Says:

    Joel is lucky he did this AFTER he got hired. In the US, before you are hired into an executive position, or most white collar positions, almost all companies do a background check. A simple GOOGLE would bring up an issue like this and the offer would be rescinded by my company or most others. Who wants to hire someone with a temper and a deferred judgement who might cause future trouble or might cause future embarassment? Also, the Nortel PR group should not be expressing “support and confidence” for Joel. They should keep quiet if Nortel insist on keeping him despite his temper and get back to whatever the PR group is supposed to do for a living.

  12. not_naive_employee Says:

    Interesting, in the telephone interview Joel said “It’s such a minor thing that I haven’t been involved in it” and his attorny said “Mr. Hackney regrets this unfortunate incident took place”. No word that he’s regretting what he did. No, he just regrets that it happened, but not that he threatened her and grabbed her face. JH still seems to think that he was right in what he was doing. Oh my oh my …
    The Nortel spokeswoman said “Joel has our support and confidence”. Well, he definitly hasn’t my support and confidence and I guess many other employees – especially the women – share this view.

  13. Cool Down folks.. Says:

    You can’t just hear one side of the story and conclude it was all Joel’s fault. I agree, he should have been more responsible being an executive, but all human beings are fallible.

  14. Careful observer Says:

    I think someone needs to get a copy of the complaint and publish it on here- or wherever people can easily access the facts. From what I’ve read the 4 witnesses to JH’s rage all agree that the victim honked her horn once and he overreacted. Why would he have signed his name on the line knowing the complaint was inaccurate? Why is there such an insistence to defend a man who has offended so many Nortel employees with his temper? This appears to be the final straw for many employees on this blog and hopefully it will be the same for Mike Z.

  15. x-employee Says:

    I have worked with some of the other leaders at Nortel. I have had a very sr. level tell me that “woman are good at some things but we cannot rely on them for what counts.” I have been in meetings when sr. level execs referred to the employees as “the little people”. I am sure many that work at nortel can back-up these comments. the issue goes much deeper than just one man.

  16. nortel employee Says:

    Well so far its been a few days and nothing is being said or done. They are betting this will all blow over in a few more days. Hopefully this will get more attention than just this blog but doubtful it will go anywhere. The good ol boys club strikes again.

  17. n&o reader Says:

    http://www.newsobserver.com/134/story/547735.html

  18. not_naive_employee Says:

    Not much in the news. This blog and the news observer seem to be the only spots where you can find comments or report about this parking lot incident.
    There is no need for Nortel to publish a press release or comment. No financial website reports about this and no major newspaper. It’ll be forgotten soon. What remains is gossip in the Nortel halls, sarcastic and ironic jokes about JH and ZMan (jokes have always been the weapon of the little people!) and some frustration. Joel isn’t repected anyhow, so who cares? Joel and Z? No, don’t think so.

    But whay does this incident get so much attention from the employee side?

    Let’s be honest, many operations employees are very angry about Joel. His management style, his way of communcating, his ignorance of good performance of the operations staff, his behaviour, his temper …. I guess many employees would like to do what Alicia did. Show him that he cannot do whatever he wants, that he has to respect other human beings. That’s why noone says, hey give him a second chance. He simply doesn’t deserve it.

  19. longtime employee Says:

    I’m more angry about the way the regime de jour has upended a long term approach for continual improvement of internal processes. They arrogantly assume the Nortel employee population lacked the initiative to do any policing of our own processes. The entire approach to OwnIt! sessions is predicated on implementing changes to improve processes, my team has always done that without prompting. The concepts of Six Sigma we have so far seen demonstrated include viciously slashing costs without regard for the impact on quality while process and defect analysis is still underway.

    Unfortunately the arrogance and hostility displayed by JJ in his parking lot encounter simply personifies this approach that the new leadership has taken. This isn’t a business transformation underway as much as a regime of terror.

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