By Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
How do you apologise after inadvertently exposing yourself to all your colleagues on a Zoom call?
Well not the way Jeffrey Toobin did, that's for sure.
Toobin, a Lawyer and top political commentator on CNN and the New Yorker Magazine, was taking part in an Election simulation. Thinking he’d muted the New Yorker’s camera and video, he took another (unidentified) call and allegedly got busy with the contents of his underwear.
To be fair he may have been having a consult with his Urologist, or perhaps he’s battling an addiction, but rather than furnish a remotely credible reason he offered this lame apology to his family, friends and colleagues:
"I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera…I believed I was not visible on Zoom… I thought no-one on the Zoom call could see me… I thought I had muted the Zoom video."
Or to put it simply – “I’m sorry I got caught”.
It won’t take the heat out of the issue because it doesn’t fly as a genuine apology. It doesn’t fly as an apology because he hasn’t ‘hit the hurt’.
Crafting an apology is really simple. You need to name the offence you’ve caused, take responsibility for it, and give an undertaking about what you will do to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If there is any context you may include it with caution, but at all costs avoid using it to justify your actions.
The right apology is critical because people have been outraged. Until that emotion is addressed no one will listen to you and the crisis will not go away. Trying to avoid it will dig a deeper hole.
Toobin completely sidestepped the offence he caused. For the avoidance of doubt, let’s name it: He exposed himself to his work colleagues performing a seemingly sexual act.
His apology may have worked for other classic Zoom clunkers – taking the call on the toilet, leaving your pants off, even showering during a call – but not for this one.
Because he isn’t the innocent victim.
But recovery is still possible. Think Anthony Weiner (before he re-offended) and Ted Haggard (until he came out of rehab cured after just three weeks).
If I were Toobin’s comms advisor I’d suggest he:
What would you do? Share it with me in the comments.
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