How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

In case you do not fully appreciate the concept of transparency and its impact on businesses today, look no further than Cooks Source magazine. Until recently, Cooks Source was a relatively obscure regional publication in western New England. That is until its editor, Judith Griggs, was caught in a massive firestorm of controversy surrounding her response to a writer whose work had been plagiarized by the magazine. Cooks Source lifted an article posted by Monica Gaudio on a website about apple pies. It appeared in the magazine’s October 2010 issue. Plagiarism is one issue; insensitivity and arrogance as a response to plagiarism apparently is not a good idea.

Gaudio’s inquiry to Cooks Source met with a response from Judith Griggs that has been widely disseminated across the Web (if you have not read the response, click here). In a nutshell, Griggs blew off Gaudio and suggested she should be grateful Cooks Source had published her work. She went so far as to criticize Gaudio’s work, saying it was much better after Cooks Source had edited it. It seems that Judith Griggs did not think about the possibility her reply sent to the inbox of Monica Gaudio was actually being sent to the inbox of the entire Internet. Critics have been merciless in assailing Cooks Source and Judith Griggs in blogs and on Facebook. After several days of bashing and a failed, lame attempt at an apology, the Cooks Source website now consists of a single page with a bit more heartfelt apology.

The lesson taught by Judith Griggs is a reminder that transparency rules today. If a business appropriates intellectual property from another source, it cannot go undetected forever. And, when a business is caught red-handed, whether it is stealing others’ work, mistreating employees, or misleading customers, the sooner it comes clean and vows to make changes the more effective damage control will likely be.

Perhaps the most galling aspect of Judith Griggs’ mea culpa is that Cooks Source and its stakeholders are victims, damaged by the groundswell of criticism arising from this incident. It is as if accepting responsibility is secondary to the “inconveniences” felt by Cooks Source as a result of its poor decision. Social media is powerful, no match for a manager that allows sarcasm to flow through his or her fingers and onto the Internet.

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